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James Morgan Hart 


Cornell University 

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tlie Cornell University Library. 

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{The Right of Translation and Reproduction is Reserved.^ 


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Preface . . ' vii 

Life of Johnson . i 

Milton 45 

Dryden . ■ J2I 

Swift . • 235 

Addison ■ ■ 273 

Pope 327 

Gray • • -455 


Da mihi, Domine, scire quod sciendum est — " Grant that the 
knowledge I get may Tae the knowledge which is worth 
having ! ' ' — the spirit of that prayer ought to rule our educa- 
tion. How little it does rule it, every discerning man will 
acknowledge. Life is short, and our faculties of attention 
and of recollection are limited.; in education we proceed as if 
our life were endless, and our powers of attention and recol- 
lection inexhaustible. We have not time or strength to deal 
with half of the matters which are thrown upon our minds, 
they prove a useless load to us. When some one talked 
to Themistocles of an art of memory, he answered : " Teach 
me rather to forget ! " The sarcasm well criticises the fatal 
want of proportion between what we put into our minds and 
their real needs and powers. 

From the time when first I was led to think about educa- 
tion, this want of proportion is what has most struck me. 
It is the great obstacle to progress, yet it is by no means 
remarked and contended against as it should be. It hardly 
begins to present itself until we pass beyond the strict 
elements of education, — beyond the acquisition, I mean, of 

viii PREFACE. 

reading, of writing, and of calculating so far as the operations 
of common life require. But the moment we pass beyond 
these, it begins to appear. Languages, grammar, literature, 
history, geography, mathematics, the knowledge of nature, — 
what of these is to be taught, how much, and how? There 
is no clear, well-grounded cgnaent. The same with religion. 
Religion is surely to be taught, but what of it is to be 
taught, and how? A clear, well-grounded, consent is again 
wanting. And taught in such fashion as things are now, 
how often must a candid and sensible man, if he could be 
offered an art of memory to secure all that he has learned 
of them, as to a very great deal of it be inclined to say with 
Themistocles : " Teach me rather to forget ! " 

In England the common notion seems to be that education 
is advanced in two ways principally : by for ever adding 
fresh matters of instruction, and by preventing uniformity. 
I should be inclined to prescribe just the opposite course ; 
to prescribe a severe limitation of the number of matters 
taught, a severe uniformity in the line of study followed. 
■\Vide ranging, and the multiplication of matters to be investi- 
gated, belong to private study, — to the development of special 
aptitudes in the individual learner, and to the demands which 
they raise in him. But separate from all this should be 
kept the broad plain lines of study for almost universal use. 
I say almost universal, because they must of necessity vary 
a little with the varying conditions of men. Whatever the 
pupil finds set out for him upon these lines, he should learn ; 
therefore it ought not to be too much in quantity. The 
essential thing is that it should be well chosen. If once we 
can get it well chosen, the more uniformly it can be kept 
to, the better. The teacher will be more at home; and 
besides, when we have once got what is good and suitable. 


there is small hope of gan, and great certainty of risk, in 
departing from it. 

No such lines are laid out, and perhaps no one could 
be trusted to lay them out authoritatively. But to amuse 
oneself with laying them out in fancy is a good exercise 
for one's thoughts. One may lay them out for this or that 
description of pupil, in this or that branch of study. The 
wider the interest of the branch of study taken, and the 
more extensive the class of pupils concerned, the better for 
our purpose. Suppose we take the department of letters. 
It is interesting to lay out in one's mind the ideal line of 
study to be followed by all who have to learn Latin and 
Greek. But it is still more interesting to lay out the ideal 
line of study to be followed by all who are concerned with 
that body of literature which exists in English, because this 
class is so much more numerous amongst us. The thing- 
would be, one imagines, to begin with a very brief intro- 
ductory sketch of our subject; then to fix a certain serie§_ 
of works to serve as what the French, taking an expression 
from the builder's business, call points de replre, — points 
which stand as so many natural centres, and by returning 
to which we can always find our way again, if we are em- 
barrassed; finally, to mark out a number of illustrative and 
representative works, connecting themselves with each of 
these points de repire. In the introductory sketch we are 
amongst generalities, in the group of illustrative works we 
are amongst details ; generalities and details have, both of 
them, their perils for the learner. It is evident that, for 
purposes of education, the most important parts by far in 
our scheme are what we call the points de repire. To get , 
these rightly chosen and thoroughly known is the great 
matter. For my part, in thinking of this or that line of 


Study which human minds follow, I feel always prompted 
to seek, first and foremost, the leading pints de refere 
in it. 

In editing for the use of the young the group of chapters 
which are now commonly distinguished as those of the 
Babylonian Isaiah, I drew attention to their remarkable fitness 
for serving as a point of this kind to the student of universal 
history. But a work which by many is regarded as simply 
and solely a document of religion, there is difficulty, perhaps, 
in employing for historical and literary purposes. With 
works of a secular character one is on safer ground. And 
for years pas^ whenever I have had occasion to use John- 
son's Lives of the Poets, the thought ias struck me how 
admirable a point de reph-e, or fixed centre of the sort de- 
scribed above, these lives might be made to furnish for the 
student of English literature. If we could but take, I have 
said to myself, the most important- of the lives in Johnson's 
volumes, and leave out all the rest, what a text-book we 
should have ! The volumes at present are a work to stand 
in a library, "a work which no gentleman's library should 
be without." But we want to get from them a text-book 
to be in the hands of every one who desires even so much 
as a general acquaintance with English literature; — and so 
much acquaintance as this who does not desire ? The work 
as Johnson published it is not fitted to serve as such a 
text-book ; it is too extensive, and contains the lives of many 
poets quite insignificant. Johnson supplied lives of all whom 
the booksellers proposed to include in their collection ot 
British Poets j he did not choose the poets himself, although 
he added two or three to those chosen by the booksellers. 
Whatever Johnson did in the department of literary bio- 
graphy and criticism possesses interest and deserves our 


attention. But in liis Lives of the Poets there are six of 
pre-eminent interest, because they are the lives of men who, 
while the rest in the collection are of inferior rank, stand 
out as names of the first class in English literature : Milton, 
Dryden, Swift, Addison, Pope, Gray. These six writers differ 
among themselves, of course, in power and importance, and 
every one can see that if we were following certain modes 
of literary classification, Milton would have to be placed on 
a solitary eminence far above any of them. But If, without 
seeking a close view of individual differences, we form a 
large and liberal first ' class among English writers, all these 
six personages, — Milton, Dryden, Swift, Addison, Pope, Gray, 
—must, I think be placed in it. Their lives cover a space 
of more than a century and a half, from 1608, the year of 
Milton's birth, down to 1771, the date of the death of Gray. 
Through this space of more than a century and a half the 
six lives conduct us. We follow the course of what War- 
burton well calls " the most agreeable subject in the world, 
which is literary history,'' aiid follow it in the lives of men 
of letters of the first class. And the writer of their lives 
is himself, too, a man of letters of the first class. Malone 
calls Johnson "the brightest ornament of the eighteenth 
century." He is justly to be called, at any rate, a man of 
letters of the first class, and the gre atesL -pewer in English 
letters during the eighteenth century. And in his Lives of 
the Poets, in this mature and most characteristic work, not 
finished until 1781, and "which I wrote," as he himself 
tells us, "in my usual way, dilatorily and hastily, unwilling 
to work and working with vigour and haste," we have 
Johnson mellowed by years, Johnson in his ripeness and 
plenitude, treating the subject which he loved best and knew 
best. Much of it he could treat with the knowledge and 


sure tact of a contemporary ; even from Milton and Dryden 
he was scarcely further separated than our generation is 
from Burns and Scott. Having all these recommendations, 
his Lives of the Poets do indeed truly stand for what 
Boswell calls them, "the work which of all Dr. Johnson's 
writings will perhaps be read most generally and with most 
pleasure." And in the lives of the six chief personages of 
the work, the lives of Milton, Dryden, Swift, Addison, Pope, 
and Gray, we have its very kernel and quintessence. True, 
Johnson is not at his best in all of these six lives equally ; 
one might have hoped, in particular,, for a better life of Gray 
from him. Still these six lives contain very much of his 
best work, and it is not amiss, perhaps, to have specimens 
of a great man's less excellent work by the side of his 
best. By their subjects, at any rate, the six lives are of 
pre-eminent interest. In these we have Johnson's series of 
critical biographies relieved of whatever is less significant, 
retaining nothing which is not highly significant, brought 
within easy and convenient compass, and admirably fitted to 
serve as a point de replre, a fixed and thoroughly known 
centre of departure and return, to the student of English 

I know of no such first-rate piece of literature, for supply- 
ing in this way the wants of the literary student, existing at 
all in any other language ; or existing in our own language 
for any period except the period which Johnson's six lives 
cover. A student cannot read them without gaining from 
them, consciously or unconsciously, an insight into the his- 
tory of English literature and life. He would find great 
benefit, let me add, from reading in connexion with each 
biography something of the author with whom it deals ; the 
first two books, say, of Paradise Lost, in connexion with 

PREFACE. xiii 

the Life of Milton; Absalo m and A chitophel. and the Dedi- 
cation of _the^neid, in connexion with the Life of Dryden ; 
in connexion with Swift's life, the Battle of the Books ; with 
Addison's, the Coygrle y Pa pers ; with Pope's, the Imitations 
of the Satires_and_EgisUes_of jiorace. The Elegy in a 
Country Churchyard everybody knows, and will have it 
present to his mind when he reads the life of Gray. But 
of the other works which I have mentioned how little can 
this be said ; to how many of us are Pope and Addison 
and Dryden and Swift, and even Milton himself, mere names, 
about whose date and history and supposed characteristics 
of style we may have learnt by rote something from a hand- 
book, but of the real men and of the power of their works 
we know nothing 1 From Johnson's biographies the student 
will get a sense of what the real men were, and with this 
sense fresh in his mind he will find the occasion propitious 
for acquiring also, in the way pointed out, a sense of the 
power of their works. 

This will seem to most people a very unambitious dis- 
cipline. But the fault of most of the disciplines proposed 
in education is that they are by far to o ambiti ous. Our 
improvers of education are almost always for proceeding by 
way of augmentation and complication ; reduction and sim- 
plification, I say, is what is rather required. We give the 
learner too much to do, and we are over-zealous to tell him 
what he ought to think. Johnson, himself, has admirably 
marked the real line of our education through letters. He 
says in his life of Pope : " Judgment is forced upon us by 
experience. He that reads many books must compare one 
opinion or one style with another; and when he compares, 
must necessarily distinguish, reject, and prefer." Nothing 
could be better. The aim and end of education through 


letters is to get this experience. Our being told by 
another what its results will properly be found to be, 
is not, even if we are told aright, at all the same thing 
as getting the experience for ourselves. The discipline, 
therefore, which puts us in the way of getting it, cannot 
be called an inconsiderable or inefficacious one. We should 
take care not to imperil its acquisition by refusing to 
trust to it in its simplicity, by being eager to add, set 
right, and annotate. It is much to secure the reading, by 
young English people, of the lives of the six chief poets of 
our nation between the years 1650 and 1750, related by 
our foremost man of letters of the eighteenth century. 
It is much to secure their reading, under the stimulus of 
Johnson's interesting recital and forcible judgments, famous 
specimens of the authors whose lives are before them. Do 
not let us insist on also reviewing in detail and supplementing 
Johnson's work for them, on telling them what they ought 
really and definitely to think about the six authors and about 
the exact place of each in Enghsh literature. Perhaps our 
pupils are not ripe for it; perhaps, too, we have not John- 
son's interest and Johnson's force ; we are not the power 
in letters for our century which he was for his. We may be 
pedantic, obscure, dull, — everything that bores, rather than 
everything that attracts; and so Johnson and his lives will 
repel, and will not be received, because we insist on being 
received along with them. 

And again, as we bar a learner's approach to Homer 
and Virgil by our chevaux de frise of elaborate grammar, 
so we are apt to stop his way to a piece of English, 
literature by imbedding it in a mass of notes and addi- 
tional matter. Mr. Croker's edition of Boswell's Life of 
Johnson is a good example of the labour and ingenuity 


which may be spent upon a masterpiece, with the result, 
after all, really of rather encumbering than illustrating it. 
All knowledge may be in itself good, but this kind of 
editing seems to proceed upon the notion that we have only 
one book to read in the course of our life, or else that we 
have eternity to read in. What can it matter to our gene- 
ration whether it was Molly Aston or Miss Boothby whose 
preference for Lord Lyttelton made Johnson jealous, and 
produced in his Life of Lyttelton a certain tone of disparage- 
ment? With the young reader, at all events, our great 
endeavour should be to bring him face to face with master- 
pieces and to hold him there, not distracting or rebutting 
him with needless excursions or trifling details. 

In the present volume, therefore, I have reprinted John- 
son's six chief Lives simply as they are given in the edition 
in four volumes octavo, the edition which passes for being 
-the first to have a correct and complete text ; and I have 
left the lives, in that iiatural form, to have their own effect 
upon the reader. I have added one single note myself, and 
one only, — a note on the mistake committed by Johnson 
in identifying Addison's " Little Dicky " with Sir Richard 
Steele. And this note I have added, not because of the 
importance of the correction in itself, but because it well 
exhibits, in one striking example, the acuteness and re- 
source of that famous man of letters. Lord Macaulay, and 
is likely to rouse and enliven the reader's attention rather 
than to dull it. 

I should like to think that a number of young people 
might thus be brought to know an important period of our 
literary and intellectual history, through means of the lives of 
six of its leading and representative authors, told by a great 
man. I should like to think that they would go on, under 


the stimulus of the lives, to acquaint themselves with some 
leading and representative work of each author. In the 
six lives they would at least have secured, I think, a most 
valuable point de replre in the history of our English life and 
literature, a point from which afterwards to find their way; 
whether they might desire to ascend upwards to our anterior 
literature, or to come downwards to the literature of yesterday 
and of the present. 

The six lives cover a period of literary and intellectual 
movement in which we are all profoundly interested. It is 
the passage of our nation to prose and reason ; the passage 
to a type of thought and expression modern, European, and 
which on the whole is ours at the present day, from a type 
antiquated, peculiar, and which is ours no longer. The 
period begins with a prose like this of Milton : " They who 
to states and governors of the commonwealth direct their 
speech, high court of parliament ! or wanting such access 
in a private condition, write that which they foresee may 
advance the public good ; I suppose them, if at the begin- 
ning of no mean endeavour, not a little altered and moved 
inwardly in their minds." It ends with a prose like this of 
Smollett : " My spirit began to accommodate itself to my 
beggarly fate, and I became so mean as to go down towards 
Wapping, with an intention to inquire for an old school- 
fellow, who, I understood, had got the command of a small 
coasting vessel then in the river, and implore his assistance." 
These are extreme instances ; but they give us no unfaithful 
notion of the change in our prose between the reigns of 
Charles the First, and of George the Third. Johnson has 
recorded his own impression of the extent of the change 
and of its salutariness. Boswell gave him a book to read, 
written in 1702 by the English chaplain of a regiment 


Stationed in Scotland. " It is sad stuff, sir," said Johnson, 
after reading it ; " miserably written, as books in general 
then were. There is now an elegance of style universally 
difiiised. No man now writes so ill as Martin's account of 
the Hebrides is written. A man could, not write so iU if he 
should try. Set a merchant's clerk now to write, and he'll 
do better.'' 

It seems as if a simple and natural prose were a thing 

which we might expect to come easy to communities of men, 

and to come early to them ; but we know from experience 

that it is not so. Poetry and the poetic form of expression 

naturally precede prose. "We see this in ancient Greece. 

We see prose forming itself there gradually and with labour ; 

we see it passing through more than one stage before it 

attains to thorough propriety and lucidity, long after forms of 

consummate accuracy have already been reached and used 

in poetry. It is a people's growth in practical life, and its 

native turn for developing this Ufe and for making progress 

in it, which awaken the desire for a good prose, — a prose 

plain, direct, intelligible, serviceable. A dead language, the 

Latin, for a long time fiimished the nations of Eirrope with 

an instrument of the kind, superior to any which they had 

yet discovered in their own tongue. But nations such as 

England and France, called to a great historic life, and 

with powerM interests and gifts either social or practical, 

were sure to feel the need of having a sound prose of their 

own, and to bring such a prose forth. They brought it 

forth Lq the seventeenth century ; France first, afterwards 


The Restoration marks the real moment of birth of our 
modem English prose. !Men of lucid and direct mental 
habit there were, such as ChiUingworth, in whom before the 


xviii PREFACE. 

Restoration the desire and the commencement of a modem 
prose show themselves. There were men like Barrow, 
weighty and powerful, whose mental habit the old prose 
suited, who continued its forms and locutions after the 
Restoration. But the hour was come for the new prose, 
and it grew and prevailed. In Johnson's time its victory 
had long been assured, and the old style seemed barbarous. 
Johnson himself wrote a prose decidedly modern. The 
reproach conveyed in the phrase " Johnsonian EngUsh " must 
not mislead us. It is aimed at his words, not at his struc- 
ture. In Johnson's prose the words are often pompous 
and long, but the structure is always plain and modern. 
The prose writers of the eighteenth century have indeed 
their mannerisms and phrases which are no longer ours. 
Johnson says of Milton's blame of the Universities for per- 
mitting young men designed for orders in the Church to 
act in plays : " This is sufficiently peevish in a man, who, 
when he mentions his exile from college, relates, with great 
luxuriance, the compensation which the pleasures of the 
theatre afford him. Plays were therefore only criminal when 
they were acted by academics." We should now-a-days not 
say peevish here, nor luxuriance, nor academics. Yet the 
style is ours by its organisin, if not by its phrasing. It is 
by its organism, — an organism opposed to length and in- 
volvement, and enabling us to be clear, plain, and short, — 
that English style after the Restoration breaks with the 
style of the times preceding it, finds the true law of prose, 
and becomes modern; becomes, in spite of superficial 
differences, the style of our own day. 

Burnet has pointed out how we are under obligations in 
this matter to Charles the Second, whom Johnson described 
as "the last king of England who was a man of parts." A 


king of England by no means fulfils his whole duty by being 
a man of parts, or by loving and encouraging art, science, and 
literature. Yet the artist and the student of the natural 
sciences will always feel a kindness towards the two Charleses, 
for their interest in art and science ; and modern letters, too, 
have their debt to Charles the Second, although it may be 
quite true that that prince, as Burnet says, " had little or no 
literature." "The King had little or no literature, but true 
and good sense, and had got a right notion of style ; for he 
was in France at the time when they were much set on 
reforming their language. It soon appeared that he had 
a true taste. So this helped to raise the value of these men 
(Tillotson and others), when the king approved of the style 
their discourses generally ran in, which was clear, plain, and 

It is the victory of this prose style, "clear, plain, and 
short," over what Burnet calls "the old style, long and 
heavy," which is the distinguished achievement, in the history 
of English letters, of the century following the Restoration. 
From the first it proceeded rapidly and was never checked. 
Burnet says of the Chancellor Finch, Earl of Nottingham : 
" He was long much admired for his eloquence, but it was 
laboured and affected, and he saw it much despised before 
he died." A like revolution of taste brought about a general 
condemnation of our old prose style, imperfectly disengaged 
from the style of poetry. By Johnson's time the new style, 
the style of prose, was altogether paramount in its own proper 
domain, and in its pride of victorious strength had invaded 
also the domain of poetry. 

That invasion is now visited by us with a condemnation 
not less strong and general than the condemnation which 
the eighteenth century passed upon the unwieldy prose of 

b 2 


its predecessors. But let us be -careful to do justice while 
we condemn. A thing good in its own place may be bad 
out of it. Prose requires a different style from poetry. 

Poetry, no doubt, is more excellent in itself than prose. 
In poetry man finds the highest and most beautiful expres- 
sion of that "which is in him. We had far better poetry 
than the poetry of the eighteenth century before that century 
arrived, we have had better since it departed. Like the 
Greeks, and u nlike the French, we can point to an age 
of poetry anterior to our age of prose, eclipsing our age 
of prose in glory, and fixing the future character and con- 
ditions of our literature. We do well to place our pride in 
the Elizabethan age and Shakespeare, as the Greeks placed 
theirs in Homer. We did well to return in the present 
century to the poetry of that older age for illumination and 
inspiration, and to put aside, in a great measure, the poetry 
and poets intervening between Milton and Wordsworth. 
Milton, in whom our great poetic age expired, was the last 
of the immortals. Of the five poets whose lives follow his 
in our present volume, three, Dryden, Addison, and Swift, 
are eminent prose-writers as well as poets ; two of the three, 
Swift and Addison, are far more distinguished as prose- 
writers than as poets. The glory of English literature is in 
poetry, and in poetry the strength of the eighteenth century 
does not lie. 

Nevertheless, the eighteenth century accomplished for us 
an immense literary progress, and its very shortcomings in 
poetry were an instrument to that progress, and served it. 
The example of Germany may show us what a nation loses 
from having no prose style. The practical genius of our 
people could not but urge irresistibly to the production of 
a real prose style, because for the purposes of modern life 


the old English prose, the prose of Milton and Taylor, is 
cumbersome, unavailable, impossible. A style of regularity, 
uniformity, precision, balance, was wanted. These are the 
qualities of a serviceable prose style. Poetry has a different 
logic, as Coleridge said, from prose ; poetical style follows 
. another law of evolution than the style of prose. But there 
is no doubt that a style of regularity, uniformity, precision, 
.balance, will acquire a yet stronger hold upon the mind of 
.a nation, if it is adopted in poetry as well as in prose, and 
so comes to govern both. This is what happened in France. 
To the practical, modern, and social genius of the French, 
a true prose was indispensable. They produced one of 
conspicuous excellence, so powerful and influential in the 
last century, having been the first to come and standing at 
first alone, that Gibbon, as is well known, hesitated whether 
he should not write his history in French. French prose 
,is marked in the highest degree -by the qualities of regu- 
larity, uniformity, precision, balance. With little opposition 
from any deep-seated and imperious poetic instincts, the 
French made their poetry conform to the law which 
was moulding their prose. French poetry became marked 
with the qualities of regularity, uniformity, precision, balance. 
This may have been bad for French poetry, but it was 
good for French prose. It heightened the perfection with 
which those qualities, the true qualities of prose, were im- 
pressed upon it. When England, at the Restoration, desired 
a modem prose, and began to create it, our WTiters turned 
naturally to French literature, which had just accomplished 
the very process which engaged them. The King's acuteness 
and taste, as we have seen, helped.. Indeed, to the admission 
of French influence of all kinds, Charles the Second's character 
3.nd that of his court were but too favourable. But the 

xxii PREFACE. 

influence of the French writers was at that moment on the 
whole fortunate, and seconded what was a vital and necessary 
effort in oiir literature. Our literature required a prose which 
conformed to the true law of prose ; and that it might acquire 
this the more surely, it compelled poetry, as in France, to 
conform itself to the law of prose likewise. The classic verse 
of French poetry was the Alexandrine, a measure favourable 
to the qualities of regularity, uniformity, precision, balance. 
Gradually a measure favourable to those very same qualities, 
— the ten-syllable couplet, — established itself as the classic 
verse of England, until in the eighteenth century it had become 
the ruling form of our poetry. Poetry, or rather the use of 
verse, entered in a remarkable degree, during that century, 
into the whole of the daily life of the civilised classes; and 
the poetry of the century was a perpetual school of the 
qualities requisite for a good prose, the qualities of regularity, 
uniformity, precision, balance. This may have been of no 
great service to English poetry, although to say that it has 
been of no service at all, to say that the eighteenth century 
has in no respect changed the conditions for English poetical 
style, or that it has changed them for the worse, would be 
untrue. But it was undeniably of signal service to that which 
was the great want and work of the hour, English prose. 

Do not let us, therefore, hastily despise Johnson and his 
century for their defective poetry and criticism of poetry. 
True, Johnson is capable of saying: "Surely no man could 
have fancied that he read Lycidas with pleasure had he 
not known the author ! " True, he is capable of maintaining 
" that the description of the temple in Congreve's Mourning 
Bride was the finest poetical passage he had ever read — 
he recollected none in Shakespeare equal to it." But we 
are to conceive of Johnson and of his century as having 

PREFACE. xxiil 

a special task committed to them, the establishment of English j 
prose ; and as capable of being warped and narrowed in ' 
their judgments of poetry by this exclusive task. Such is 
the common course and law of progress ; one thing is ,. 
done at a time, and other things are sacrificed to it. We j / 
must be thankful for the thing done, if it is valuable, and we ,7 
must put up with the temporary sacrifice of other things to 
this one. The other things will have their turn sooner or 
later. Above all, a nation with profound poetical instincts, 
like the English nation, may be trusted to work itself right 
again in poetry after periods of mistaken poetical f)ractice. 
Even in the midst of an age of such practice, and with 
his style frequently showing the bad influence of it. Gray 
was saved, we may say, and remains a poet whose work 
has high and pure worth, simply by his knowing the Greeks 
thoroughly, more thoroughly than ■ any English poet had 
known them since Milton, Milton was a survivor from the 
great age of poetry; Dryden, Addison, Pope, and Swift were 
mighty workers for the age of prose. Gray, a poet in the 
midst of the age of prose, a poet, moreover, of by no means 
the highest force and of scanty productiveness, nevertheless 
claims a place among the six chief personages of Johnson's 
Lives, because it was impossible for an English poet, even 
in that age, who knew the great Greek masters intimately, 
not to respond to their good influence, and to be rescued ,. 
from the false poetical practice of his contemporaries. Of 
such avail to a nation are deep poetical instincts even in 
an age of prose. How much more may they be trusted 
to assert themselves after the age of prose has ended, and 
to remedy any poetical mischief done by it ! And meanwhile 
the work of the hour, the necessary and appointed work, 
has been done, and we have got our prose. 

xxiv PREFACE. 

Let us always bear in mind, therefore, that the century 
so well represented by Dryden, Addison, Pope, and Swift, 
and of which the literary history is so powerfully written 
by Johnson in his Lives, is a century of prose, — a century 
of which the great work in literature was the formation of 
Enghsh prose. Johnson was himself a labourer in this great 
and needful work, and was ruled by its influences. His 
blame of genuine poets like Milton arid Gray, his over- 
praise of artificial poets Hke Pope, are to be taken as the 
utterances of a man who worked for an age of prose, who 
was ruled by its influences, and could not but be ruled by 
them. Of poetry he speaks as a man whose sense for 
that with which he is dealing is in some degree imperfect. 

Yet even on poetry Johnson's utterances are valuable, 
because they are the utterances of a great and original man. 
That indeed he was ; and to be conducted by such a man 
through an important century cannot but do us good, even 
though our guide may in some places be less competent 
than in others. Johnson was the man of an age of prose. 
Furthermore, Johnson was a strong force of conservatism and 
concentratiop, in an epoch which by its natural tendencies 
seemed to be moving towards expansion and freedom. But he 
was a great man, and great men are always instructive. The 
more we study him, the higher will be our esteem for the 
power of his mind, the width of his interests, the largeness 
of his knowledge, the freshness, fearlessness, and' strength 
of his judgments. The higher, too, will be our esteem 
for his character. His well-known lines on Levett's death, 
beautiful and touching lines, are still more beautiful and 
touching because they recall a whole history of Johnson's 
goodness, . tenderness, and charity. Human dignity, on the 
other hand, he maintained, we all know how well, through 


the whole long and arduous struggle of his life, from his 
undergraduate days at Oxford, down to the Jam moriturus 
of his closing hour. His faults and strangenesses are on 
the surface, and catch every eye. But on the whole we 
have in him a fine and admirable type, worthy to be kept 
in view for ever, of " the ancient and inbred integrity, piety, 
good-nature and good-humour of the English people." 

It was right that a Life of Johnson himself should stand 
as an introduction to the present volume, and I long ago 
conceived the wish that it should be the Life contributed' 
by Lord Macaulay to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. That 
Life is a work which shows Macaulay at his very best; a 
work written when his style was matured, and when his 
resources were in all their fulness. The subject, too, was 
one which he knew thoroughly, and for which he felt cordial 
sympathy ; indeed by his mental habit Macaulay himself 
belonged, in many respects, to the eighteenth century rather 
than to our own. But the permission to use in this manner 
a choice work of Lord Macaulay's was no light favour to ask. 
However, in my zeal for the present volume I boldly asked 
it, and by the proprietors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 
the Messrs. Black, it has been most kindly and generously 
accorded. I cannot sufficiently express my sense of obligation 
to them for their consent, and to Mr. Trevelyan for his 
acquiescence in it. They have enabled me to fulfil a long- 
cherished desire, to tell the story of a whole important age 
of English literature in one compendious volume, — itself, 
at the same time, a piece of English literature of the very 
first class. Such a work the reader has in his hands in the 
present volume ; its editor may well be fearful of injuring 
it by a single superfluous line, a single unacceptable word. 






1709— 1784. 

Samuel Johnson, one of the most eminent English writers 
of the eighteenth century, was the son of Michael' Johnson, 
who was, at the beginning of that century, a magistrate of 
Lichfield, and a bookseller of great note in the midland 
counties,. Michael's abilities and attainments seem to have > 
been considerable. He was so well acquainted with the 
contents of the volumes which he exposed to sale, that the 
country rectors of Staffordshire and Worcestershire thought 
him an oracle on points of learning. Between him and the 
clergy, indeed, there was a strong religious and political S3rm- 
pathy. He was a zealous churchman, and, though he had 
qualified himself for municipal office by taking the oaths to 
the sovereigns in possession, was to the last a Jacobite in 
heart. At his house, a house which is still pointed out to every 
traveller who visits Lichfield, Samuel was born on the i8th of 
September 1709. In the child the physical, intellectual, and 
moral peculiarities which afterwards distinguished the man 
were plainly discernible ; great muscular strength accompanied 
by much awkwardness and many infirmities ; great quickness 
of parts, with a morbid propensity to sloth and procrastination ; 
a kind and generous heart, with a gloomy and irritable temper. 


He had inherited from his ancestors a scrofulous taint, which 
it was beyond the power of medicine to remove. His parents 
were weak enough to beheve that the royal touch was a specific 
for this malady. • In his third year he was taken up to London, 
inspected by the court surgeon, prayed over by the court 
chaplains, and stroked and presented with a piece of gold by 
Queen Anne. One of his earliest recollections was that of a 
stately lady in a diamond stomacher and a long black hood. 
.Her hand was applied in vain. The boy's features, which were 
originally noble, and not irregular, were distorted by his malady. 
His cheeks were deeply scarred. He lost for a time the sight 
nf one eye ; and he saw but very imperfectly with the other. 
But the force of his mind overcame every impediment. Indo- 
icnt as he was, he acquired knowledge with such ease and 
lapidity, that at every school to which he was sent he was soon 
the best scholar. From sixteen to eighteen he resided at 
.'home, and was left to his own devices. He learned much at 
this time, though his studies were without guidance and without 
plan. He ransacked his father's shelves, dipped into a multi- 
tude of books, read what was interesting, and passed over what 
was dull. An ordinary lad would have acquired little or no 
useful knowledge in such a way ; but much that was dull to 
ordinary lads was interesting to Samuel. He read little Greek, 
for his proficiency in that language was not such that he could 
take much pleasure in the masters of Attic poetry and elo- 
quence. But he had left school a good Latinist, and he soon 
acquired, in the large and miscellaneous library of which he 
■now had the command, an extensive knowledge of Latin 
literature. That Augustan delicacy of taste, which is the boast 

of the great public schools of England, he never possessed. 
But he was early familiar with some classical writers, who were 

juite unknown to the best scholars in the sixth form at Eton. 
He was peculiarly attracted by the works of the great restorers 

)f learning. Once, while searching for some apples, he found 

a huge folio volume of Petrarch's w^orks. The name excited 


his curiosity, and he eagerly devoured hundreds of pages. 
Indeed, the diction and versification of his own Latin com- 
positions show that he had paid at least as much attention to 
modern copies from the antique as to the original models. 

While he was thus irregularly educating himself, his family 
was sinking into hopeless poverty. Old Michael Johnson was 
much better qualified to pore upon books, and to talk about 
them, than to trade in them. His business declined : his 
debts increased ; it was with difficulty that the daily expenses 
of his household were defrayed. It was out of his power to 
support his son at either university ; but a wealthy neighbour 
offered assistance ; and, in reliance on promises which proved 
to be of very little value, Samuel was entered at Pembroke 
College, Oxford. When the young scholar presented himself 
to the rulers of that society, they were amazed not more by 
his ungainly figure acid eccentric manners than by the quantity 
of extensive and curious information which he had picked up 
during many months of desultory, but not unprofitable, study. 
On the first day of his residence, he surprised his teachers by 
quoting Macrobius ; and one of the most learned among them 
declared, that he had never known a freshman of equal 

At Oxford, Johnson resided during about three years. He V 
was poor, even to raggedness ; and his appearance excited a 
mirth and a pity, which were equally intolerable to his haughty 
spirit. He was driven from the quadrangle of Christ Church 
by the sneering looks which the members of that aristocratical 
society cast at the holes in his shoes. Some charitaible person 
placed a new pair at his door ; but he spurned them away in 
a fury. Distress made him, not servile, but reckless and 
ungovernable. No opulent gentleman commoner, panting for 
one-and-twenty, could have treated the academical authorities 
with more gross disrespect. The needy scholar was generally 
to be seen under the gate of Pembroke, a gate now adorned 

ith his effigy, haranguing a circle of lads, over whom, in spite 
' B 2 


of his tattered gown and dirty linen, his wit and audacity gave 
him an undisputed ascendency. In every mutiny against the 
discipline of the college he was the ringleader. Much was 
pardoned, however, to a youth so highly distinguished by 
abilities and acquirements. He had early made himself known 
by turning Pope's Messiah into Latin verse. The style and 
rhythm, indeed, were not exactly Virgilian ; but the translation 
found many admirers, and was read with pleasure by Pope 

The time drew near at which Johnson would, in the ordinary 
course of things, have become a Bachelor of Arts : but he was 
at the end of his resources. Those promises of support on 
which he had relied had not been kept. His famity could do 
nothing for him. His debts to Oxford tradesmen were small 
indeed, yet larger than he could pay. In the autumn of tj^i, 
he was under the necessity of quitting tj^e university without 
a degree. In the following winter his father died. The old 
man left but a pittance ; and of that pittance almost the whole 
was appropriated to the support of his widow. The property 
to which Samuel succeeded amounted to no more than twenty 

His life, during the thirty years which followed, was one 
hard struggle with poverty. The misery of that struggle 
needed no aggravation, but was aggravated by the sufferings of 
an unsound body and an unsound mind. Before the young 
man left the university, his hereditary malady had broken forth 
in a singularly cruel form. He had become an incurable hypo- 
chondriac. He said long after that he had been mad all his 
life, or at least not perfectly sane ; and, in truth, eccentricities 
less strange than his have often been thought grounds sufR- 
cient for absolving felons, and for setting aside wills. His 
grimaces, his gestures, his mutterings, sometimes diverted and 
sometimes terrified people who did not know him. At a 
dinner table he would, in a fit of absence, stoop down and 
twitcH'off a lady's shoe. He would amaze a drawing-room by 


suddenly ejaculating a clause of the Lord's Prayer. He would 
conceive an unintelligible a^iersion to a particular alley, and 
perform a great circuit rather than see the hateful place. 
He would set his heart on touching every post in the streets 
through which he walked. If by any chance he missed a post, 
he would go back a hundred yards and repair the omission. 
Under the influence of his disease, his senses became morbidly 
torpid, and his imagination morbidly active. At one time he 
would stand poring on the town clock without being able to 
tell the hour. At another, he would distinctly hear his mother, 
who was many miles off, calling him by his name. But this 
was not the worst. A deep melancholy took possession of 
him, and gave a dark tinge to all his views of human nature 
and of human destiny. Such wretchedness as he endured has 
driven many men to shoot themselves or drown themselves. 
But he was under no temptation to commit suicide. He was 
sick of life ; but he was afraid of death ; and he shuddered 
at every sight or sound which reminded him of the inevitable 
hour. In religion he found but little comfort during his long 
and frequent fits of dejection ; for his religion partook of his 
own character. The light from heaven shone on him indeed, 
but not in a direct line, or with its own pure splendour. The 
rays had to struggle through a disturbing medium : they 
reached him refracted, dulled, and discoloured by the thick 
gloom which had settled on his soul ; and, though they might 
be sufficiently clear to guide him, were too dim to cheer 

With such infirmities of body and of mind, this celebrated 
man was left, at twoj£,d;twenty, to fight his way through the 
world. He remained during about five years in the midland 
counties. At Lichfield, his birthplace and his early home, he 
had inherited some friends and acquired others. He was 
kindly noticed by Henry Hervey, a gay officer of noble family, 
who happened to be quartered there. Gilbert Walmesley, 
registrar of the ecclesiastical court of the diocese, a man of 

6 SAMUEL JOHNSON. , [1709— 

distinguislied parts, learning, and knowledge of the world, did 
himself honour by patronising the^oung adventurer, whose re- 
pulsive person, unpolished manners, and squalid garb, moved 
many of the petty aristocracy of the neighbourhood to laughter 
or to disgust. At Lichfield, however, Johnson could find no 
way of earning a livelihood. He became usher of a grammar 
school in Leicestershire ; he resided as a humble companion 
in the house of a country gentleman ; but a life of dependence 
was insupportable to his haughty spirit. He repaired to 
Birmingham, and there earned a few guineas by literary 
drudgery. In that town he printed a translation, little noticed 
at the time, and long forgotten, of a Latin book about 
Abyssinia. He then put forth proposals for publishing by 
subscription the poems of Politian, with notes containing a 
'■" history of modern Latin verse ; but subscriptions did not 

come in, and the volume never appeared. 
. . While leading this vagrant and miserable life, Johnson fell 
in love. The object of his passion was Mrs. Elizabeth Porter, 
,a widow who had children as old as himself. To ordinary 
spectators, the lady appeared to be a short, fat, coarse woman, 
painted half an inch thick, dressed in gaudy colours, and fond 
of exhibiting provincial airs and graces which were not exactly 
. those of the Queensberrys and Lepels. To Johnson, however, 
«-V whose passions were strong, whose eyesight was too weak to 
distinguish ceruse from natural bloom, and who had seldom 
or never been in the same room with a woman of real fashion, 
- his Titty, as he called her, was the most beautiful, graceful, 
and accomplished of her sex. That his admiration was un- 
feigned cannot be doubted ; for she was as poor as himself. 
She accepted, with a readiness which did her little honour, the 
addresses of a suitor who might have been her son. The 
marriage, however, in spite of occasional wranglings, proved 
happier than might have been expected. The lover continued 
to be under the illusions of the wedding-day till the lady died 
in her sixty-fourth year. On her monument he placed an 


inscription extolling the charms of her person and of her 
manners ; and when, long after her decease, he had occasion 
to mention her, he exclaimed, with a tenderness half ludicrous, 
half pathetic, "Pretty creature ! " 

His marriage made it necessary for him to exert himself 
more strenuously than he had hitherto done. He took a house 
in the neighbourhood of his native town, and advertised for 
pupils. But eighteen months passed away, and only three 
pupils came to his academy, Indeed, his appearance was so 
strange, and his temper so violent, that his schoolroom must 
have resembled an ogre's den. Nor was the tawdry painted 
grandmother whom he called his Titty, well qualified to make 
provision for the comfort of young gentlemen. David Garrick, 
who was one of the pupils, used many years later, to throw 
the best company of London into convulsions of laughter 
by mimicking the endearments of this extraordinary pair. 

At length Johnson, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, 
determined to seek his fortune in the capital as a literary 
adventurer. He set out with a few guineas, three acts of the 
tragedy of Irene in manuscript, and two or three letters of 
introduction from his friend Walmesley. 

Never since literature became a calling in England had it 
been a less gainful calling than at the time when Johnson took 
up his residence in London. In the preceding generation, 
a writer of eminent merit was sure to be munificently rewarded 
by the government. The least that he could expect" was a /< 
pension or a sinecure place ; and, if he showed any aptitude 
for politics, he might hope to be a member of parliament, a 
lord of the treasury, an ambassador, a secretary of state. It 
would be easy, on the other hand to name several writers of 
the nineteenth century of whom the least successful has 
received forty thousand pounds from the booksellers. But 
Johnson entered on his vocation in the most dreary part of 
the dreary interval which separated two ages of prosperity. 
Literature had ceased to flourish under the patronage of the. 


great, and had not begun to flourish under the patronage of 
the public. One man of letters, indeed, Pope, had acquired 
by his pten what was then considered as a handsome fortune, 
and lived on a footing of equality with nobles and ministers of 
state. But this was a solitary exception. Even an author 
whose reputation was established, and whose works were 
popular, such an author as Thomson, whose Seasons were in 
every library, such an author as Fielding, whose Pasquin had 
had a greater run than any drama since the Beggars' Opera, 
was sometimes glad to obtain, by pawning his best coat, the 
means of dining on tripe at a cookshop underground, where 
he could wipe his hands, after his greasy meal, on the back of 
a Newfoundland dog. It is easy, therefore, to imagine what 
humiliations and privations must have awaited the novice who 
had still to earn a name. One of the publishers to whom 
Johnson appHed for employment, measured vnth a scornful 
eye that athletic, though uncouth, frame, and exclaimed, 
"You had better get a porter's knot, and carry trunks." Nor 
was the advice bad ; for a porter was likely to be as plentifully 
fed, and as comfortably lodged, as a poet. 

Some time appears to have elapsed before Johnson was able 
to form any literary connection from which he could expect 
more than bread for the day which was passing over him. He 
never forgot the generosity with which Hervey, who was now 
residing in London, relieved his wants during this time of 
trial. " Harry Hervey," said the old philosopher many years 
later, " was a vicious man ; but he was very kind to me. If 
you call a dog Hervey, I shall love him." At Hervey's table 
Johnson sometimes enjoyed feasts which were made more 
agreeable by contrast. But in general he dined, and thought 
that he dined well, on sixpennyworth of meat and a penny- 
worth of bread at an alehouse near Drury Lane. 

The effect of the privations and sufferings which he endured 
at this time was discernible to the last in his temper and his 
deportment. His manners had never been courtly. They 


now became almost savage. Being frequently under the neces- 
sity of wearing shabby coats and dirty shoes, he became a 
confirmed sloven. Being often very hungry when he sate 
down to his meals, he contracted a habit of eating with 
ravenous greediness. Even to the end of his life, and even at 
the tables of the great, the sight of food affected him as it 
affects wild beasts and birds of prey. His taste in cookery, 
formed in subterranean ordinaries and d-/a-mode-heef-shops, 
was far from delicate. Whenever he was so fortunate as to 
have near him a hare that had been kept too long, or a meat 
pie made with rancid butter, he gorged himself with such 
violence that his veins swelled, and the moisture broke out on 
his forehead. The affronts which his poverty emboldened 
stupid and low-minded men to offer to him, would have 
broken a mean spirit into sycophancy, but made him rude 
even to ferocity. Unhappily the insolence which, while it was 
defensive, was pardonable, and in some sense respectable, 
accompanied him into societies where he was treated with 
courtesy and kindness. He was repeatedly provoked into 
striking those who had taken liberties with him. All the 
sufferers, however, were wise enough to abstain from -talking 
about their beatings, except Osborne, the most rapacious and 
brutal of booksellers, who proclaimed everywhere that he had 
been knocked down by the huge fellow whom he had hired to 
puff the Harleian Library. 

About a year after Johnson had begun to reside in London, 
he was fortunate enough to obtain regular employment from 
Cave, an enterprising and intelligent bookseller, who was 
proprietor and editor of the Gentleman's Magazine. That 
journal, just entering on the ninth year of its long existence, 
was the only periodical work in the kingdom which then had 
what would now be called a large circulation. It was indeed, 
the chief source of parliamentary intelligence. It was not 
then safe, even during a recess, to pubUsh an account of the 
proceedings of either House without some disguise. Cave, 

10 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

however, ventured to entertain his readers with what he called 
Reports of the Debates of the Senate of Lilliput. France was 
Blefuscu : London was Mildendo : pounds were sprugs : the 
Duke of, Newcastle was the Nardac Secretary of State : Lord 
Hardwicke was the Hugo Hickrad ; and William Pulteney was 
Wingul Pulnub. To write the speeches was, during several 
years, the business of Johnson. He was generally furnished 
with notes, meagre indeed, and inaccurate, of what had been 
said ; but sometimes he had to find arguments and eloquence 
both for the ministry and for the opposition. He was himself 
a Tory, not from rational conviction — for his serious opinion 
was that one form of government was just as good or as bad 
as another — but from mere passion, such as inflamed the 
Capulets against the Montagues, or the Blues of the Roman 
circus against the Greens. In his infancy he had heard so 
much talk about the villanies of the Whigs, and the dangers of 
the Church, that he had become a furious partisan when he 

, could scarcely speak. Before he was three he had insisted on 
being taken to hear Sacheverell preach at Lichfield Cathedral, 
and had listened to the sermon with as much respect, and 
probably with as much intelligence, as any Staffordshire squire 

,/ _^in the congregation. The work which had been begun in the 
nursery had been completed by the university. Oxford, when 
Johnson resided there, was the most Jacobitical place in 
England; and Pembroke was one of the most Jacobitical 
colleges in Oxford. The prejudices which he brought up to 
, London were scarcely less absurd than those of his own Tom 
Tempest. Charles IL and James IL were two of the best 
kings that ever reigned. Laud, a poor creature who never did, 
said, or wrote anything indicating more than the ordinary 
capacity of an old woman, was a prodigy of parts and learning 
over whose tomb Art and Genius still continued to weep. 
Hampden deserved no more honourable name than that of 
"the zealot of rebellion." Even the ship money, condemned 
not less decidedly by Falkland and Clarendon than by the 


bitterest Roundheads, Johnson would not pronounce to have 
been an unconstitutional impost. Under a government the 
mildest that had ever been known in the world — under a 
government which allowed to the people an unprecedented 
liberty of speech and action, he fancied that he was a slave ; he 
assailed the ministry with obloquy which refuted itself, and re- 
gretted the lost freedom and happiness of those golden days in 
which a writer who had taken but one-tenth part of the hcense 
allowed to him would have been pilloried, mangled with the. 
shears, whipped at the cart's tail, and flung into a noisome 
dungeon to die. He hated dissenters and stock-jobbers, the 
excise and the army, septennial parliaments and continental 
connections. He long had an aversion to the Scotch, an 
aversion of which he could not remember the commencement, 
but which, he owned, had probably originated in his abhor- 
rence of the conduct of the nation during the Great Rebellion. 
It is easy to guess in what manner debates on great party 
questions were likely to be reported by a man whose judgment 
was so much disordered by party spirit. A show, of fairness 
was indeed necessary to the prosperity of the magazine. But 
Johnson long afterwards owned that, though he had saved 
appearances, he had taken care that the Whig dogs should 
not have the best of it ; and, in fact, every passage which has 
lived, every passage which bears the marks of his higher 
faculties, is put into the mouth of some member of the 

A few weeks after Johnson had entered on these obscure 
labours, he published a work which at once placed him high 
among the writers of his age. It is probable that what he had 
suffered during his first year in London had often reminded 
him of some parts of that noble poem in which Juvenal has 
described the misery and degradation of a needy man of 
letters, lodged among the pigeons' nests in the tottering garrets 
that overhung the streets of Rome. Pope's admirable imita- 
tions of Horace's Satires and Epistles had recently appeared, 

12 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

were in every hand, and were by many readers thought 
superior to the originals. What Pope had done for Horace, 
Johnson aspired to do for Juvenal. The enterprise was bold, 
and yet judicious. For between Johnson and Juvenal there 
was much in common, much more certainly than between Pope 
and Horace. 

Johnson's London appeared without his name in May, 1738. 
He received only ten guineas for this stately and vigorous poem : 
but the sale was rapid and the success complete. A second 
edition was required within a week. Those small critics who 
are always desirous to lower established reputations ran about 
proclaiming that the anonymous satirist was superior to Pope 
in Pope's own peculiar department of literature. It ought to 
be remembered, to the honour of Pope, that he joined heartily 
in the applause with which the appearance of a rival genius 
was welcomed. He made inquiries about the author of 
London. Such a man, he said, could not long be concealed. 
The name was soon discovered ; and Pope, with great kind- 
ness, exerted himself to obtain an academical degree and the 
mastership of a grammar school for the poor young poet. The 
attempt failed, and Johnson remained a bookseller's hack. 

It does not appear that these two men, the most eminent 
writer of the generation which was going out, and the most 
eminent writer of the generation which was coming in, ever 
saw each other. They lived in very different circles, one 
surrounded by dukes and earls, the other by starving pam- 
phleteers and index-makers. Among Johnson's associates at 
this time may be mentioned Boyse, who, when his shirts were 
pledged, scrawled Latin verses sitting Up in bed with his arms 
through two holes in his blankets; who composed very 
respectable sacred poetry when he was sober, and who was 
at last run over by a hackney coach when he was drunk ; 
Hoole, surnamed the metaphysical tailor, who, instead of 
attending to his measures, used to trace geometrical diagrams 
on the board where he sate cross-legged ; and the penitent 


impostor, George Psalmanazar, who, after poring all day, in a 
humble lodging, on the folios of Jewish rabbis and Christian 
fathers, indulged himself at night with literary and theological 
conversation at an alehouse in the city. But the most remark- 
able of the persons with whom at this time Johnson consorted, 
was Richard Savage, an earl's son, a shoemaker's apprentice, 
who had seen life in all its forms, who had feasted among 
blue_ribbands in St. Ja^s's Square, and had lain with fifty 
pounds weight of irons on his legs in the condemned ward 
of Newgate. This man had, after many vicissitudes of fortune, 
sunk at last into abject and hopeless poverty. His pen had 
failed him. His patrons had been taken away by death, or 
estranged by the riotous profusion with which he squandered 
their bounty, and the ungrateful insolence with which he 
rejected their advice. He now lived by begging He dined 
on venison and champagne whenever he had been so fortunate 
as to borrow a guinea. If his questing had been unsuccessful, 
he appeased the rage of hunger with some scraps of broken 
meat, and lay down to rest under the Piazza of Covent Garden 
in warm weather, and, in cold weather, as near as he could get 
to the furnace of a glass-house. Yet, in his misery, he was 
still an agreeable companion. He had an inexhaustible store 
of anecdotes about that gay and brilliant world from which 
he was now an He had observed the great men of both 
parties in hours of careless relaxation, had seen the leaders 
of opposition without the mask of patriotism, and had heard 
the prime minister roar with laughter and tell stories not over 
decent. During some months Savage lived in the closest 
familiarity with Johnson ; and then the friends parted, not 
without tears. Johnson remained in London to drudge for 
Cave. Savage went to the West of England, lived there as 
he had lived everywhere, and, in 1743, died, penniless and 
heart-broken, in Bristol g^l. 

Soon after his death, wKile the public curiosity was strongly 
excited about his extraordinary character, and his not less 


extraordinary adventures, a life of him appeared widely 
different from the catchpenny lives of eminent men which 
were then a staple article of manufacture in Grub Street. 
The style was indeed deficient in ease and variety ; and the 
writer was evidently too partial to the Latin element of our 
language. But the little work, with all its faults, was a master- 
piece. No finer specimen of literary biography existed iii any 
language, living or dead ; and a discerning critic might have 
confidently predicted that the author was destined to be the 
founder of a new school of English eloquence. 

The Life of Savage was anonymous ; but it was well known 
in literary circles that Johnson was the writer. During the 
three years which followed, he produced no important work ; 
but he was not, and indeed could not be, idle. The fame of 
his abilities and learning continued to grow. Warburton pro- 
nounced him a man of parts and genius ; and the praise of 
Warburton was then no light thing. Such was Johnson's 
reputation that, in 1747, several eminent booksellers combined 
to employ him in the arduous work of preparing a Dictionary 
of the English Language, in two folio volumes. The sum 
which they agreed to pay him was only fifteen hundred guineas ; . 
and out of this sum he had to pay several poor men of letters 
who assisted him in the humbler parts of his task. 

The Prospectus of the Dictionary he addressed to the Earl 
of Chesterfield. Chesterfield had long been celebrated for the 
politeness of his manners, the brilliancy of his wit, and the 
delicacy of his taste. He was acknowledged to be the finest 
speaker in the House of Lords. He had recently governed 
Ireland, at a momentous conjuncture, with eminent firmness, 
wisdom and humanity; and he had since become Secretary of 
State. He received Johnson's homage with the most winning 
affability, and requited it with a few guineas, bestowed doubt- 
less in a very graceful manner, but was by no means desirous to 
see all his carpets blackened with the London mud, and his 
soups and wines thrown to right and left over the gowns of 


fine ladies and the waistcoats of fine gentlemen, by an absent, 
awkward scholar, who gave strange starts and uttered strange 
growls, who dressed like a scarecrow, and ate like a cormorant. 
During some time Johnson continued to call on his patron, 
but, after being repeatedly told by the porter that his lordship 
was not at home, took the hint, and ceased to present himself 
at the inhospitable door. 

Johnson had flattered himself that he should have completed 
his Dictionary by the end of 1750; but it was not till 1755 
that he at length gave his huge volumes to the world. During 
the seven years which he passed in the drudgery of penning 
definitions and marking quotations for transcription, he sought 
for relaxation in literary labour of a more agreeable kind. 
In 1749 he published the Vanity of Human Wishes, an 
excellent imitation of the Tenth Satire of Juvenal. It is in 
truth not easy to say whether the palm belongs to the ancient 
or to the modern poet. The couplets in which the fall of 
Wolsey is described, though lofty and sonorous, are feeble 
when compared with the wonderful lines which bring before 
us all Rome in tumult on the day of the fall of Sejanus, the 
laurels on the doorposts, the white bull stalking towards the 
Capitol, the statues rolling down from their pedestals, the 
flatterers of the disgraced minister running to see him dragged 
with a hook through the streets, and to have a kick at his 
carcass before it is hurled into the Tiber. It must be owned 
too that in the concluding passage the Christian moralist has 
not made the most of his advantages, and has fallen decidedly 
short of the sublimity of his Pagan model. On the other hand, 
Juvenal's Hannibal must yield to Johnson's Charles ; and 
Johnson's vigorous and pathetic enumeration of the miseries 
of a literary life must be allowed to be superior to Juvenal's 
lamentation over the fate of Demosthenes and Cicero. 

For the copyright of the Vanity of Human Wishes 
Johnson received only fifteen guineas. 

A few days after the publication of this poem, his tragedy, 

i6 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [i7°9— 

begun many years before, was brought on the stage. His 
pupil, David Garrick, had, in 1741, made his appearance on 
a humble stage in Goodman's Fields, had at once risen to the 
first place among actors, and was now, after several years of 
almost uninterrupted success, manager of Drury Lane Theatre. 
The relation between him and his old preceptor was of a 
very singular kind. They repelled each other strongly, and 
yet attracted each other strongly. Nature had made them of 
very different clay ; and circumstances had fully brought out 
the natural peculiarities, of both. Sudden prosperity had 
turned Garrick's head. Continued adversity had soured John- 
son's temper. Johnson saw with more envy than became so 
great a man, the villa, the plate, the china, the Brussels carpet, 
which the little mimic had got by repeating, with grimaces 
and gesticulations, what wiser men had written; and the 
exquisitely sensitive vanity of Garrick was galled by the 
thought that; while all the rest of the world was applauding 
him, he could obtain from one morose cynic, whose opinion 
it was impossible to despise, scarcely any compliment not 
acidulated with scorn. Yet the two Lichfield men bad so 
many early recollections in common, and sympathized with 
each other on so many points on which they sympathized with 
nobody else in the vast population of the capital, that, though 
the master was often provoked by the monkey-like imperti- 
nence of the pupil, and the pupil by the bearish rudeness of 
the master, they remained friends till they were parted by 
death. Garrick now brought Irene out, with alterations suf- 
ficient to displease the author, yet not sufficient to make the 
piece pleasing to the audience. The public, however, listened, 
with little emotion, but with much civility, to five acts of mono- 
tonous declamation. After nine representations the play was 
withdrawn. It is, indeed, altogether unsuited to the stage, 
and, even when perused in the closet, will be found hardly 
worthy of the author. He had not the slightest notion of what 
blank verse should be. A change in the last syllable of every 


Other line would make the versification of the Vanity of Human 
Wishes closely resemble the versification of Irene. The poet, 
however, cleared, by his benefit flights, and by the sale of the 
copyright of his tragedy, about three hundred pounds, then a 
great sum in his estimation. 

About a year after the representation of Irene, he began to 
publish a series of short essays on morals, manners, and 
literature. This species of composition had been brought 
into fashion by the success of the Tatler, and by the still more 
brilliant success of the Spectator. A crowd of small writers 
had vainly attempted to rival Addison. The Lay Monastery, 
the Censor, the Freethinker, the Plain Dealer, the Champion, 
and other works of the same kind, had had their short day. 
None of them had obtained a permanent place in our literature ; 
and they are now to be found only in the libraries of the 
curious. At length Johnson undertook the adventure in which 
so many aspirants had failed. In the thirty-sixth year after the 
appearance of the last number of the Spectator, appeared the 
first number of the Rambler. From March 1750 to March 1752 
this paper continued to come out every Tuesday and Saturday. 

From the first the Rambler was enthusiastically admired by 
a few eminent men. Richardson, when only five numbers had 
appeared, pronounced it equal, if not superior, to the Spectator. 
Young and Hartley expressed their approbation not less 
warmly. Bubb Dodington, among whose many faults indiffer- 
ence to the claims of genius and learning cannot be reckoned, 
solicited the acquaintance of the writer. In consequence 
probably of the good offices of Dodington, who was then 
the confidential adviser of Pri nce F rederick, two of his Royal 
Highness's gentlemen carried a gracious message to the printing- 
office, and ordered seven copies for Leicester House. But 
these overtures seemed to have been very coldly received. 
Johnson had had enough of the patronage of the great to last 
him all his life, and was not disposed to haunt any other door 
as he had haunted the door of Chesterfield. 


By the public the Rambler was at first very coldly received. 
Though the price of a number was only twopence, the sale 
did not amount to five hundred. The profits were therefore 
very small. But as soon as the flyings leaves were collected 
and reprinted they became popular. The author lived to see 
thirteen thousand copies spread over England alone. Separate 
editions were published for the Scotch and Irish markets. A 
large party pronounced the style perfect, so absolutely perfect 
that in some essays it would be impossible for the writer him- 
self to alter a single word for the better. Another party, not 
less numerous, vehemently accused him of having corrupted 
the purity of the English tongue. The best critics admitted 
that his diction was too monotonous, too obviously artificial, 
and now and then turgid even to absurdity. But they did 
justice to the acuteness of his observations on morals and 
manners, to the constant precision and frequent brilliancy of 
his language, to the weighty and magnificent eloquence of many 
serious passages, and to the solemn yet pleasing humour of 
some of the lighter papers. On the question of precedence 
between Addison and Johnson, a question which, seventy years 
ago, was much disputed, posterity has pronounced a decision 
from which there is no appeal. Sir Roger, his chaplain and 
his butler. Will Wimble and Will Honeycombe, the Vision of 
Mirza, the Journal of the Retired Citizen, the Everlasting Club, 
the Dunmow Flitch, the Loves of Hilpah and Shalum, the 
Visit to the Exchange, and the Visit to the Abbey, are known 
to everybody. But many men and women, even of highly 
cultivated minds, are unacquainted with Squire Bluster and 
Mrs. Busy, Quisquilius and Venustulus, the Allegory of Wit 
and Learning, the Chronicle of the Revolutions of a Garret, 
and the sad fate of Aningait and Ajut. 

The last Rambler was written in a sad and gloomy hour. 
Mrs. Johnson had been given over by the physicians. Three 
days later she died. She left her husband ahnost broken- 
hearted. Many people had been surprised to see a man of his 


genius and learning stooping to every drudgery, and denying 
himself almost every comfort, for the purpose of supplying a 
silly, affected old woman with superfluities, which she accepted 
with but little gratitude. But all his affections had been con- 
centrated on her. He had neither brother nor sister, neither 
son nor daughter. To him she was beautiful as the Gunnings, 
and witty as Lady_ Mary. . Her opinion of his writings was 
more important to him than the voice of the pit of Drury Lane 
Theatre, or the judgment of the Monthly Review. The chief 
support which had sustained him through the most arduous 
labour of his life was the hope that she would enjoy the fame 
and the profit which he anticipated from his Dictionary. She 
was gone ; and in that vast labyrinth of streets, peopled by eight 
hundred thousand human beings, he was alone. Yet it was 
necessary for him to set himself, as he expressed it, doggedly 
to work. After three more laborious years, the Dictionary was 
at length complete. 

It had been generally supposed that this great work would 
be dedicated to the eloquent and accomplished nobleman to 
whom the Prospectus had been addressed. He well knew the 
value of such a compliment ; and therefore, when the day of 
publication drew near, he exerted himself to soothe, by a show 
of zealous and at the same time of delicate and judicious kind- 
ness, the pride which he had so cruelly wounded. Since the 
Ramblers had ceased to appear, the town had been entertained 
by a journal called The World, to which many men of high 
rank and fashion contributed. In two successive numbers of 
The World, the Dictionary was, to use the modern phrase, 
puffed with wonderful skill. The writings of Johnson were 
warmly praised. It was proposed that he should be invested 
with the authority of a Dictator, nay, of a Pope, over our 
language, and that his decisions about the meaning and the 
spelling of words received as final. His two folios, 
it was said, would of course be bought by everybody who could 
afford to buy them. It was scon known that these papers 

c 2 

20 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

were written by Chesterfield. But the just resentment of John- 
son was not to be so appeased. In a letter written with singular 
energy and dignity of thought and language, he repelled the 
tardy advances of his patron. The Dictionary came forth with- 
out a dedication. In the preface the author truly declared that 
he owed nothing to the great, and described the difficulties 
with which he had been left to struggle so forcibly and pathe- 
tically that the ablest and most malevolent of all the enemies 
of his fame, Home Tooke, never could read that passage 
without tears, i-; 7 ^. ,. ; 1 ■?„.. 

The public, on this occasion, did Johnson full justice,, and 
something more than justice. The best lexicographer may 
well be content if his productions are received by the world 
with cold esteem. But Johnson's Dictionary was hailed with 
an enthusiasm such as no similar work has ever excited. It 
was indeed the first dictionary which could be r,eadwith,pleasure. 
The definitions show so much acuteness of thought and com- 
mand of language, and the passages quoted from poets, divines, 
and philosophers, are so skilfully selected, that a leisure hour 
may always be very agreeably spent in turning over the pages, 
The faults of the book resolve themselves, for the most part, 
into one great fault. Johnson was a wretched etymologist. 
He knew little or nothing of any Teutonic language except 
English, which indeed, as he wrote it, was scarcely a Teutonic 
1 language ; and thus he was absolutely at the mercy of Junius 
I and Skinner. '''1',;,. ',<..'■•■"' - I''':""'" 

The Dictionary, though it raised Johnson's fame, added 
nothing to his pecuniary means. The fifteen hundred guineas 
which the booksellers bad agreed to pay him had been ad- 
vanced and spent before the last sheets issued from the press. 
It is painful to relate that, twice in the course of the year which 
followed the publication of this great work, he was arrested and 
carried to spunging-houses, and that he was twice indebted for 
his liberty to his excellent friend Richardson. It was still 
necessary for the man who had been formally saluted by the 


highest authority as Dictator of the English language to supply 
his wants by constant toil. He abridged his Dictionary. He 
proposed to bring out an edition of Shakspeare by subscription ; 
and many subscribers sent in their names, and laid down their 
money. But he soon found the task so little to his taste that 
he turned to more attractive employments. He contributed 
many papers to a new monthly journal, which was called the 
Literary Magazine. Few of these papers have much interest ; 
but among them was the very best thing that he ever wrote, a 
masterpiece both of reasoning and of satirical pleasantry, the 
review of Jenyns'^ Inquiry into the Nature and Origin of Evil. 

In the spring of 1758 Johnson put forth the first of a series 
of essays, entitled the Idler. During two years these essays 
continued to appear weekly. They were eagerly read, widely 
circulated, and, indeed, impudently pirated, while they were 
still in the original form, and had a large sale when collected 
into volumes. The Idler may be described as a second part 
of the Rambler, somewhat livelier and somewhat weaker than 
the first part. 

While Johnson was busied with his Idlers, his mother, who 
had accomplished her ninetieth year, died at Lichfield. It 
was long since he had seen her ; but he had not failed to con- 
tribute largely, out of his small means, to her comfort. In 
order to defray the charges of her funeral, and to pay some 
debts which she had left, he wrote a httle book in a single 
week, and sent off the sheets to the press without reading them 
over. A hundred pounds were paid him for the copyright; 
and the purchasers had great cause to be pleased with their 
bargain, for the book was Rasselas. 

The success of Rasselas was great, though such ladies as 
Miss Lydia Languish must have been grievously disappointed 
when th^y found that the new volume from the circulating 
library was little more than a dissertation on the author's 
favourite theme, the Vanity of Human Wishes ; that the 

Prince of Abyssinia was without a mistress, and the Princess 

~ t ^ n , I 

22 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

without a lover; and that the story set the hero and the 
heroine down exactly where it had taken them up. The style 
was the subject of much eager controversy. The Monthly 
Review and the Critical Review took different sides. Many 
readers pronounced the writer a pompous pedant, who would 
never use a word of two syllables where it was possible to use 
a word of six, and who could not make a waiting-woman relate 
her adventures without balancing every noun with another 
noun, and every epithet with another epithet. Another party, 
not less zealous, cited with delight numerous passages in which 
weighty meaning was expressed with accuracy and illustrated 
with splendour. And both the censure and the praise were 

About the plan of Rasselas little was said by the critics ; 
and yet the faults of the plan might seem to invite severe 
criticism. Johnson has frequently blamed Shakspeare for 
neglecting the proprieties of time and place, and for ascribing 
to one age or nation the manners and opinions of another. 
Yet Shakspeare has not sinned in this way more grievously 
than Johnson. Rasselas and • Imlac, Nekayah and Pekuah, 
are evidently meant to be Abyssinians of the eighteenth cen- 
tury — for the Europe which Imlac describes is the Europe of 
the eighteenth century — and the inmates of the Happy Valley 
talk familiarly of that law of gravitation which Newton dis- 
covered, and which was not fully received even at Cam- 
bridge till the eighteenth century. What a real company of 
Abyssinians would have been may be learned from Bruce's 
Travels. But Johnson, not content with turning filthy savages 
ignorant of their letters, and gorged with raw steaks cut from 
living cows, into philosophers as eloquent and enlightened as 
himself or his friend Burke, and into ladies as highly accom- 
plished as Mrs. Lennox or Mrs. Sheridan, transferred the 
whole domestic system of England to Egypt. Into a land of 
harems, a land of polygamy, a land where women are married 
without ever being seen, he introduced the flirtations and 


jealousies of our ball-rooms. In a land where there is bound- 
less liberty of divorce, wedlock is described as the indissoluble 
compact. A youth and maiden meeting by chance or brought 
together by artifice, exchange glances, reciprocate civilities, go 
home and dream of each other. " Such,'' says Rasselas, " is the 
common process of marriage." Such it may have been, and 
may still be, in London, but assuredly not at Cairo. A writer 
who was guilty of such improprieties had little right to blame '^ 1 
the poet who made Hector quote Aristotle, and represented 'i ^ ^ 
Juljo^Romano as flourishing in the days of the oracle of Delphi. '^ 

By such exertions as have been described, Johnson supported 
himself till the year 1762. In that year a great change in his " 
circumstances took place. He had from a child been an enemy 
of the reigning dynasty. His Jacobite prejudices had been 
exhibited with little disguise both in his works and in his 
conversation. Even in his massy and elaborate Dictionary, he 
had, with a strange want of taste and judgment, inserted bitter 
and contumelious reflections on the Whig party. The excise, 
which was a favourite resource of Whig financiers, he had 
designated as a hateful tax. He had railed against the 
commissioners of excise in language so coarse that they had 
seriously thought of prosecuting him. He had with difficulty n 
been prevented from holding up the Lord Privy Seal by name 
as an example of the meaning of the word "renegade." A 
pension he had defined as pay given to a state hireling to 
betray his country ; a pensioner as a slave of state hired by a 
stipend to obey a master. It seemed unlikely that the author 
of these definitions would himself be pensioned. But that 
was a time of wonders. George the Third had ascended the 
throne ; and had, in the course of a few months, disgusted 
many of the old friends, and conciliated many of the old 
enemies of his house. The city was becoming mutinous, 
Oxford was becoming loyal. Cavendishes and Bentincks were 
murmuring. Somersets and Wyndhams were hastening to kiss 
hands. The head of the treasury was now Lord Bute, who 

24 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

was a Tory, and could have no objection to Johnson's Totyism. 
Bute wished to be thought a patron of men of letters ; and 
Johnson was one of the most eminent and one of the most 
needy men of letters in Europe. A pension of three hundred 
a year was graciously offered, and with very little hesitation 

This event produced a change in Johnson's whole way of 
life. For the first time since his boyhood he no longer felt the 
daily goad urging him to the daily toil. He was at liberty, 
after thirty years of anxiety and drudgery, to indulge his 
constitutional indolence, to lie in bed till two in the afternoon, 
and to sit up talking till four in the morning, without fearing 
either the print^s devil or the sheriff's officer. 

One laborious task indeed he had bound himself to perform. 
He had received large subscriptions for his promised edition of 
Shakspeare ; he had lived on those subscriptions during some 
years : and he could not without disgrace omit to perform his 
part of the contract. His friends repeatedly exhorted him 
to make an effort ; and he repeatedly resolved to do so. 
But, notwithstanding their exhortations and his resolutions, 
month followed month, year followed year, and nothing was 
done. He prayed fervently against his idleness ; he deter- 
mined, as often as he received the scarament, that he would 
no longer doze away and trifle away his time ; but the spell 
under which he lay resisted prayer and sacrament. His private 
notes at this time are made up of self-reproaches. " My 
indolence," he wrote on Easter Eve in 1764, "has sunk into 
grosser sluggishness. A kind of strange oblivion has over- 
spread me, so that I know not what has become of the last 
year." Easter 1765 came, and found him still in the same state. 
"My time," he wrote, "has been unprofitably spent, and 
seems as a dream that has left nothing behind. My memory 
grows confused, and I know not how the days pass over me." 
Happily for his honour, the charm which held him captive was 
at length broken by no gentle or friendly hand. He had been 


weak enough to pay serious attention to a stoiy about a ghost 
which haunted a house in Cock Lane, and had actually gone 
himself, with some of his friends, at one in the morning, to 
St. John's Church, Clerkenwell, ki_JJi£_iiDf)e— ef--reeeiving--Er- 
communic atJQ w from the p ertetfeed:— spir-ife- But the spirit, 
though adjured with all solemnity, remained obstinately silent ; 
and it soon appeared that a naughty girl of eleven had been 
amusing herself by making fools of so many philosophers. 
Churchill, who, confident in his powers, drunk with popularity 
and burning with party spirit, was looking for some man 
of established fame and Tory politics to insult, celebrated 
the Cock Lane Ghost in three cantos, nicknamed Johnson 
Pomposo, asked where the book was which had been so long 
promised and so liberally paid for, and directly accused the 
great moralist of cheating. This terrible word proved effec- 
tual; and in October 1765 appeared, after a delay of nine 
years, the new edition of Shakspeare. 

This publication saved Johnson's character for honesty, but 
added nothing to the fame of his abilities and learning. The 
preface, though it contains some good passages, is not in his 
best manner. The most valuable notes are those in which he 
had an opportunity of showing how attentively he had during 
many years observed human life and human nature. The 
best specimen is the note on the character of Polonius. 
Nothing so good is to be found even in Wilhelm Meister's 
admirable examination of Hamlet. But here praise must end. 
It would be difficult to name a more slovenly, a more worthless 
edition of any great classic. The reader may turn over play 
after play without finding one happy conjectural emendation, 
or one ingenious and satisfactory explanation of a passage 
which had baffled preceding commentators. Johnson had, in 
his Prospectus, told the world that he was peculiarly fitted for 
the task which he had undertaken, because he had, as a 
lexicographer, been under the necessity of taking a wider view 
of the English language than any of his predecessors. That 


26 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

his knowledge of our literature was extensive, is indisputable. 
But, unfortunately, he had altogether neglected that very part 
of our hterature with which it is especially desirable that an 
editor of Shakspeare should be conversant. It is dangerous to 
assert a negative. Yet little will be risked by the assertion, 
that in the two folio volumes of the English Dictionary there 
is not a single passage quoted, from any dramatist of the 
Elizabethan age, except Shakspeare and Ben. Even from Ben 
the quotations are few. Johnson might easily, in a few 
months, have made himself well acquainted with every old 
play that was extant. But it never seems to have occurred to 
him that this was a necessary preparation for the work which 
he had undertaken. He would doubtless have admitted that 
it would be the height of absurdity in a man who was 
not familiar with the works of ^schylus and Euripides to 
publish an edition of Sophocles. Yet he ventured to publish 
an edition of Shakspeare, without having ever in his life, as far 
as can be discovered, read a single scene of Massinger, Ford, 
Decker, Webster, Marlow, Beaumont, or Fletcher, His de- 
tractors were noisy and scurrilous. Those who most loved 
and honoured him had little to say in praise of the manner in 
which he had discharged the duty of a commentator. • He had, 
however, acquitted himself of a debt which had long lain 
heavy on his conscience, and he sank back into the repose 
from which the sting of satire had roused him. He long 
continued to live upon the fame which he had already won. 
He was honoured by the University of Oxford with a Doctor's 
degree, by the Royal Academy with a professorship, and by 
the King with an interview, in which his Majesty most 
graciously expressed a hope that so excellent a writer would 
not cease to write. In the interval, however, between 1765 
and 1775, Johnson published only two or three political tracts, 
the longest of which he could have produced in forty-gight 
hours, if he had worked as he worked on the life of Savage and 
on Rasselas. 


But though his pen was now idle his tongue was active. The 
influence exercised by his conversation, directly upon those 
with whom he lived, and indirectly on the whole literary 
world, was altogether without a parallel. His colloquial talents 
were indeed of the highest order. He had strong sense, 
quick discernment, wit, humour, immense knowledge of litera- 
ture and of life, and an infinite store of curious anecdotes. 
As respected style, he spoke far better than he wrote. Every 
sentence which dropped from his lips was as correct in 
structure as the most nicely balanced period of the Rambler. 
But in his talk there were no pompous triads, and little more 
than a fair proportion of words in osity and ation. All was 
simplicity, ease, and vigour. He uttered his short, weighty, and 
pointed sentences with a power of voice, and a justness and 
energy of emphasis, of which the effect was rather increased 
than diminished by the rollings of his huge form, and by the 
asthmatic gaspings and puffings in which the peals of his 
eloquence generally ended. Nor did the laziness which made 
him unwilling to sit down to his desk prevent him from giving 
instruction or entertainment orally. To discuss questions of 
taste, of learning, of casuistry, in language so exact and so 
forcible that it might have been printed without the alteration 
of a word, was to him no exertion, but a pleasure. He loved, 
as he said, to fold his legs and have his talk out. He was 
ready to bestow the overflowings of his full mind on anybody 
who would start a subject, on a fellow-passenger in a stage- 
coach, or on the person who sate at the same table with 
him in an eating-house. But his conversation was nowhere 
so brilliant and striking as when he was surrounded by a few 
friends, whose abilities and knowledge enabled them, as he 
once expressed it, to send him back every ball that he threw. 
Some of these, in 1764, formed themselves into a club, which 
gradually became a formidable power in the commonwealth 
of letters. The verdicts pronounced by this conclave on 
new books were speedily known over all London, and were 

28 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

sufficient to sell off a whole edition in a day, or to condemn the 
sheets to the service of the trunk-maker and the pastrycook. 
Nor shall we think this strange when we consider what great 
and various talents and acquirements met in the little frater- 
nity. Goldsmith was the representative of poetry and light 
literature, Reynolds of the arts, Burke of political eloquence 
and political philosophy. There, too, were Gibbon, the 
greatest historian, and Jones the greatest linguist, of the age. 
Garrick brought to the meetings his inexhaustible pleasantry, 
his incomparable mimicry, and his consummate knowledge of 
stage effect. Among the most constant attendants were two 
high-born and high-bred gentlemen, closely bound together by 
friendship, but of widely different characters and habits ; 
Bennet Langton, distinguished by his skill in Greek literature, 
by the orthodoxy of his opinions, and by the sanctity of his 
life ; and Topham Beauclerk, renowned for his amours, his 
knowledge of the gay world, his fastidious taste, and his 
sarcastic wit. To predominate over such a society was not 
easy. Yet even over such a society Johnson predominated. 
Burke might indeed have disputed the supremacy to which 
others were under the necessity of submitting. But Burke, 
though not generally a very patient listener, was content to 
take the second part when Johnson was present ; and the club 
itself, consisting of so many eminent men, is to this day 
popularly designated as Johnson's Club. 

Among the members of this celebrated body was one to 
whom it has owed the greater part of its celebrity, yet who was 
regarded with little respect by his brethren, and had not 
without difficulty obtained a seat among them. This was 
James Boswell, a young Scotch lawyer, heir to an honourable 
name and a fair estate. That he was a coxcomb and a bore, 
weak, vain, pushing, curious, garrulous, was obvious to all 
who were acquainted with him. That he could not reason, 
that he had no wit, no humour, no eloquence, is apparent 
from his writings. And yet his writings are read beyond the 

-17^4] SAMUEL JOHNSON. 29 

Mississippi, and under the Southern Cross, and are likely to be 
readas long as the English exists, either as a living or as a 
dead language. Nature had made him a slave and an idolater. 
, His mind resembled those creepers which the botanists call 
parasites, and which can subsist only by dinging round the 
stems and imbibing the juices of stronger plants.' He must 
have fastened himself on somebody. He might have fastened 
himself on Wilkes, and have become the fiercest patriot in the 
Bill of Rights Society. He might have fastened himself on 
Whitefield, and have become the loudest field preacher among 
the Calvinistic Methodists. In a happy hour he fastened 
himself on Johnson. The pair might seem ill matched. For 
Johnson had early been prejudiced against Boswell's country. 
To a man of Johnson's strong understanding and irritable 
temper, the silly egotism and adulation of Boswell must have 
been as teasing as the constant buzz of a fly. Johnson hated 
to be questioned ; and Boswell was eternally catechizing him 
on all kinds of subjects, and sometimes propounded such 
questions as, "What would you do, sir, if you were locked 
up in a tower with a baby ? " Johnson was a water-drinker 
and Boswell was a winebibber, and indeed little better than an 
habitual sot. It was impossible that there should be perfect 
harmony between two such companions. Indeed, the great 
man was sometimes provoked into fits of passion, in which he 
said things which the small man, during a few hours, seriously 
resented. Every quarrel, however, was soon made up. During 
twenty years the disciple continued to worship the master : the 
master continued to scold the disciple, to sneer at him, and 
to love him. The two friends ordinarily resided at a great 
distance from each other. Boswell practised in the Parliament 
House of Edinburgh, and could pay only occasional visits to 
London. During those visits his chief business was to watch 
Johnson, to discover all Johnson's habits, to turn the conversa- 
tion to subjects about which Johnson was likely to say some- 
thing remarkable, and to fill quarto note-books with minutes 

30 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

of what Johnson had said. In this way were gathered the 
materials, out of which was afterwards constructed the most 
interestirigjbiographical work in the world. 

Soon after the club began to exist, Johnson formed a con- 
aection less important indeed to his fame, but much more im- 
portant to his happiness, than his connection with Boswell. 
Henry Thrale, one of the most opulent brewers in the kingdom, 
a. man of sound and cultivated understanding, rigid principles, 
and liberal spirit, was married to one of those clever, kind- 
hearted, engaging, vain, pert young women, who are perpetually 
doing or saying what is not exactly right, but who, do or say 
what they may, are always agreeable. In 1765 the Thrales 
became acquainted with Johnson, and the acquaintance ripened 
Fast into friendship. They were astonished and delighted by the 
brilliancy of his conversation. They were flattered by finding 
that a man so widely celebrated preferred their house to any other 
in London. Even the peculiarities which seemed to unfit him 
For civilized society, his gesticulations, his rollings, his puffings, 
his mutterings, the strange way in which he put on his clothes, 
the ravenous eagerness with which he devoured his dinner, his 
fits of melancholy, his fits of anger, his frequent rudeness, 
his occasional ferocity, increased the interest which his new 
associates took in him. For these things were the cruel marks 
left behind by a life which had been one long conflict with 
disease and adversity. In a vulgar hack writer, such oddities 
would have excited only disgust. But in a man of genius, 
learning, and virtue, their effect was to add pity to admiration 
and esteem. Johnson soon had an apartment at the brewery 
in Southwark, and a still more pleasant apartment at the viUa 
of his friends on Streatham Common. A large part of every- 
year he passed in those abodes — abodes which must have 
seemed magnificent and luxurious indeed, when compared 
with the dens in which he had generally been lodged. But his 
chief pleasures were derived from what the astronomer of his 
Abyssinian tale called the endearing elegance of female friendship. 


Mrs. Thrale rallied him, soothed him, coaxed him, and, if she 
sometimes provoked him by her flippancy, made ample amends 
by listening to his reproofs with angelic sweetness of temper. 
When he was diseased in body and in mind, she was the most 
tender of nurses. No comfort that wealth could purchase, no 
contrivance that womanly ingenuity, set to work by womanly 
compassion, could devise was wanted to his sick room. He 
requited her kindness by an affection pure as the affection of 
a father, yet delicately tinged with a gallantry, which, though 
awkward, must have been more flattering than the attentions of 
a crowd of the fools who gloried in the names, now obsolete, 
of Buck and Maccaroni. It should seem that a full half of 
Johnson's life, during about sixteen years, was passed under the 
roof of the Thrales. He accompanied the family sometimes to 
Bath, and sometimes to Brighton, once to Wales and once to 
Paris. But he had at the same time a house in one of the 
jiarrow and gloomy courts on the north of Fleet Street. In 
the garrets was his library, a large and miscellaneous collection 
of books, falling to pieces and begrimed with dust. On a 
lower floor he sometimes, but very rarely, regaled a friend with 
a plain dinner, a veal pie, or a leg of lamb and spinage, and a 
rice pudding. Nor was the dwelling uninhabited during his 
long absences. It was the home of the most extraordinary 
assemblage of inmates that ever was brought together : At the 
head of the establishment Johnson had placed an old lady 
named Williams, whose chief recommendations were her blind- 
ness and her poverty. But, in spite of her murmurs and 
reprpaches, he gave an asylum to another lady who was as 
poor as herself, Mrs. Desmoulins, whose family he had known 
many years before in Staffordshire. Room was found for the 
daughter of Mrs. Desmoulins, and for another destitute damsel, 
who was generally addressed as Miss Carmichael, but whom 
her generous host called Polly. An old quack doctor named 
Levett, who bled and dosed coal-heavers and hackney coach- 
men, and received for fees crusts of bread, bits of bacon. 

32 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

glasses of gin, and sometimes a little copper, completed this 
strange menagerie. All these poor creatures were at constant 
war with each other, and with Johnson's negro servant Frank. 
Sometimes, indeed, they transferred their hostilities from the 
servant to the master, complained that a better table was not 
kept for them, and railed or maundered till their benefactor 
was glad to make his escape to Streatham, or to the Mitre 
Tavern. And yet he, who was generally the haughtiest and 
most irritable of mankind, who was but too prompt to resent 
anything which looked like a shght on the part of a purse-proud 
bookseller, or of a noble and powerful patron, bore patiently 
from mendicants, who, but for his bounty, must have gone to 
the workhouse, insults more provoking than those for which he 
had knocked down Osborne and bidden defiance to Chester- 
field. Year after year Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Desmoulins, 
Polly and Levett, continued to torment him and to live upon 

The course of life which has been described was interrupted 
in Johnson's sixty-fourth year by an important event. He had 
early read an account of the Hebrides, and had been much in- 
terested by learning that there was so near him a land peopled 
by a race which was still as rude and simple as in the middle 
ages. A wish to become intimately acquainted with a state of 
society so utterly unlike all that he had ever seen frequently 
crossed his mind. But it is not probable that his curiosity 
would have overcome his habitual sluggishness, and his love of 
the smoke, the mud, and the cries of London, had not Boswell 
importuned him to attempt the adventure, and offered to be his 
squire. At length, in August 1773, Johnson crossed the High- 
land line, and plunged courageously into what was then 
considered, by most Englishmen, as a dreary and perilous 
wilderness. After wandering about two months through the 
Celtic region, sometimes in rude boats which did not protect 
him from the rain, and sometimes on small shaggy ponies which 
could hardly bear his weight, he returned to his old haunts with 


a mind full of new images and new theories. During the fol- 
lowing year he employed himself in recording his adventures. 
About the beginning of 1775, his Journey to the Hebrides was 
published, and was, during some weeks, the chief subject of 
conversation in all circles in which any attention was paid to 
literature. The book is still read with pleasure. The narrative 
is entertaining ; the speculations, whether sound or unsound, 
are always ingenious ; and the style, though too stiff and 
pompous, is somewhat easier and more graceful than that of 
his early writings. His prejudice against the Scotch had at 
length become little more than matter of jest ; and whatever 
remained of the old feeling had been effectually removed by 
the kind and respectful hospitality with which he had been 
received in every part of Scotland. It was, of course, not to 
be expected that an Oxonian Tory should praise the Presby- 
terian polity and ritual, or that an eye accustomed to the 
hedgerows and parks of England should not be struck by the 
bareness of Berwickshire and East Lothian. But even in 
censure Johnson's tone is not unfriendly. The most en- 
hghtened Scotchmen, with Lord Mansfield at their head, were 
well pleased. But some foolish and ignorant Scotchmen were 
moved to anger by a little unpalatable truth which was mingled 
with much eulogy, and assailed him whom they chose to 
consider as the enemy of their country with libels much more 
dishonourable to theijr country than anything that he had ever 
said or written. They published paragraphs in the newspapers, 
articles in the magazines, sixpenny pamphlets, five-shilling 
books. One scribbler abused Johnson for being blear-eyed; 
another for being a pensioner; a third informed the world that 
one of the Doctor's uncles had been convicted of felony in 
Scotland, and had found that there was in that country one 
tree capable of supporting the weight of an Englishman. 
Macpherson, whose Fingal had been proved in the Journey to 
be an impudent forgery, threatened to take vengeance with a 
cane. The only effect of this threat was that Johnson reiterated 


34 SAMUEL JOHNSON, [1709—- 

the charge of forgery in the most contemptuous terms, and 
walked about, during some time, with a cudgel, which, if the 
impostor had not been too wise to encounter it, would assuredly 
have descended upon him, to borrow the sublime language of 
his own epic poem, "like a hammer on the red son of the 

Of other assailants Johnson took no notice whatever. He 
had early resolved never to be drawn into controversy ; and 
he adhered to his resolution with a steadfastness which is the 
more extraordinary, because he was, both intellectually and 
morally, of the stuff of which controversialists are made. In 
conversation, he was a singularly eager, acute, and pertinacious 
disputant. When at a loss for good reasons, he had recourse 
to sophistry ; and when heated by altercation, he made un- 
sparing use of sarcasm and invective. But when he took his 
pen in his hand, his whole character seemed to be changed. 
A hundred bad writers misrepresented him and reviled him ; 
but not one of the hundred could boast of having been 
thought by him worthy of a refutation, or even of a retort. - 
The Kenricks, Campbells, MacNicols, and Hendersons, did 
their best to annoy him, in the hope that he would give them 
importance by answering them. But the reader will in vain, 
search his works for any allusion to Kenrick or Campbell, to 
MacNicol or Henderson. One Scotchman, bent on vindi- 
cating the fame of Scotch learning, defied him to the combat 
in a detestable Latin hexameter : — 

Maxime, si tu vis, cupio contendere tecum. 

But Johnson took no notice of the chaEenge. He had learned, 
both from his own observation and from literary history, in 
which he was deeply read, that the place of books in the 
pubUc estimation is fixed, not by what is written about them, 
but by what is written in them; and that an author whose 
works are likely to live is very unwise if he stoops to wrangle 
with detractors whose works are certain to die. He always 


maintained that fame was a shuttlecock which could be 
kept up only by being beaten back, as well as beaten 
forward, and which would soon fall if there were only 
one battledore. No saying was oftener in his mouth than 
that fine apophthegm of Bentley, that no man was ever 
written down but by himself. 

Unhappily, a few months after the appearance of the 
Journey to the Hebrides Johnson did what none of his 
envious assailants could have dobe, and to a certain extent 
succeeded in writing himself down. The disputes between 
England and her American colonies had reached a point 
at which no amicable adjustment was possible. Civil war 
was evidently impending ; and the ministers seem to have 
thought that the eloquence of Johnson might with advantage 
be employed to inflame the nation against the opposition 
here, and against the rebels beyond the Atlantic. He had 
already written two or three tracts in defence of the foreign 
and domestic policy of the government ; and those tracts, 
though hardly worthy of him, were much superior to the 
crowd of pamphlets which lay on the counters of Almon 
and Stockdale. But his Taxation No Tyranny was a pitiable 
failure. The very title was a silly phrase, which can have 
been recommended to his choice by nothing but a jingling 
alliteration which he ought to have despised. The arguments 
were such as boys use in debating societies. The pleasantry 
was as awkward as the gambols of a hippopotamus. Even 
Boswell was forced to own that, in this unfortunate piece, 
he could detect no trace of his master's powers. The general 
opinion was that the strong faculties which had produced the 
Dictionary and the Rambler were beginning to feel the effect 
of time and of disease, and that the old man would best 
consult his credit by writing no more. 

But this was a great mistake. Johnson had failed, not 
because his mind was less vigorous than when he wrote 
Rasselas in the evenings of a week, but because he had 

D 2 

36 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

foolishly chosen, or suffered others to choose for him, a 
subject such as he would at no time have been competent 
to treat. He was in no sense a statesman. He never 
willingly read or thought or talked about affairs of state, 
He loved biography, literary history, the history of manners ; 
but political history was positively distastefiil to him. The 
question at issue between the colonies and the mother country 
was a question about which he had really nothing to say. He 
failed, therefore, as the greatest men must fail when they attempt 
to do that for which they are unfit; as Burke would have 
failed if Burke had tried to write comedies like those of 
Sheridan; as Reynolds would have failed if Reynolds had 
tried to paint landscapes like those of Wilson. Happily, 
Johnson soon had an opportunity of proving most signally 
that his failure was not to be ascribed to intellectual decay. 
On Easter eve 1777, some persons, deputed by a meeting 
which consisted of forty of the first booksellers in London, 
called upon him. Though he had some scruples about doing 
business at that season, he received his visitors with much 
civility. They came to inform him that a new edition of the 
English poets, from Cowley downwards, was in contemplation, 
and to ask him to furnish short biographical prefaces. He 
readily undertook the task, a task for which he was pre-emi- 
nently qualified. His knowledge of the literary history of 
England since the Restoration was unrivalled. That know- 
ledge he had derived partly from books, and partly from sources 
which had long been closed ; from old Grub Street traditions ; 
from the talk of forgotten poetasters and pamphleteers who 
had long been lying in parish vaults ; from the recollections of 
such men as Gilbert Walmesley, who had conversed with the 
wits of Button ; Gibber, who had mutilated the plays of two 
generations of dramatists ; Orrery, who had been admitted to 
the society of Swift ; and Savage, who had rendered services of 
no very honourable kind to Pope. The biographer therefore 
sate down to his task with a mind full of matter. He had at 


first intended to give only a paragraph to every minor poet, and 
only four or five pages to the greatest name. But the flood of 
anecdote and criticism overflowed the narrow channel. The 
work, which was originally meant to consist only of a few 
sheets, swelled into ten volumes, small volumes, it is true, and 
not closely printed. The first four appeared in 1779, the 
remaining six in 1781. 

The Lives of the Poets are, on the whole, the best of John- 
son's works. The narratives are as entertaining as any novel. 
The remarks on hfe and on human nature are eminently shrewd 
and profound. The criticisms are often excellent, and, even '' 
when grossly and provokingly unjust, well deserve to be studied. 
For, however erroneous they may be, they are never silly. 
They are the judgments of a mind trammelled by prejudice ^ 
and deficient in sensibility, but vigorous and acute. They, 
therefore, generally contain a portion of valuable truth which 
deserves to be separated from the alloy ; and, at the very 
worst, they mean something, a praise to which much of what 
is called criticism in our time has no pretensions. 

Savage's Life Johnson reprinted nearly as it had appeared in 
1744. Whoever, after reading that Life, will turn to the other 
Lives will be struck by the difference of style. Since Johnson 
had been at ease in his circumstances he had written little and 
talked much. When, therefore, he, after the lapse of years, 
resumed his pen, the mannerism which he had contracted 
while he was in the constant habit of elaborate composition 
was less perceptible than formerly ; and his diction frequently 
had a colloquial ease which it had formerly wanted. The 
improvement may be discerned by a skilful critic in the 
Journey to the Hebrides, and in the Lives of the Poets is so 
obvious that it cannot escape the notice of the most careless 

Among the Lives the best are perhaps those of C owley, j ~^ 
Dryden, and Pope. The very worst is, beyond all doubt, 
that of Gray. 

38 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 

This great work at once became popular. There was, 
indeed, much just and much unjust censure ; but even those 
who were loudest in blame were attracted by the book in 
spite of themselves. Malone computed the gains of the 
publishers at five or six thousand pounds. But the writer was 
very poorly remunerated. Intending at first to write very short 
prefaces, he had stipulated for only two hundred guineas. The 
booksellers, when they saw how far his performance had 
surpassed his promise, added only another hundred. Indeed, 
Johnson, though he did not despise, or affect to despise 
money, and though his strong sense and long experience 
ought to have qualified him to protect his own interests, seems 
to have been singularly unskilful and unlucky in his literary 
bargains. He was generally reputed the first English writer of 
his time. Yet several writers of his time sold their copyrights 
for sums such as he never ventured to ask. To give a single 
instance, Robertson received four thousand five hundred 
pounds for the History of Charles V. ; and it is no disrespect 
to the memory of Robertson to say that the History of 
Charles V. is both a less valuable and a less amusing book 
than the Lives of the Poets. 

Johnson was now in his seventy-second year. The in- 
firmities of age were coming fast upon him. That inevitable 
event of which he never thought without horror was brought 
near to him ; and his whole life was darkened by the shadow 
of death. He had often to pay the cruel price of longevity. 
Every year he lost what could never be replaced. The 
strange dependants to whom he had given shelter, and to 
whom, in spite of their faults, he was strongly attached by 
habit, dropped off one by one; and, in the silence of his 
home, he regretted even the noise of their scolding matches. 
The kind and generous Thrale was no more ; and it would 
have been well if his wife had been laid beside him. But she 
survived to be the laughing-stock of those who had envied her, 
and to draw from the eyes of the old man who had loved her 


beyond anything in the world, tears far more bitter than he 
would have shed over her grave. With some estimable, and 
many agreeable qualities, she was not made to be independent. 
The control of a mind more steadfast than her own was 
necessary to her respectability. While she was restrained by 
her husband, a man of sense and firmness, indulgent to her 
taste in trifles, but always the undisputed master of his 
house, her worst ofifences had been impertinent jokes, white 
lies, and short fits of pettishness ending in sunny good humour. 
But he was gone ; and she was left an opulent widow of forty, 
with strong sensibility, volatile fancy, and slender judgment. 
She soon fell in love with a music-master from Brescia, in 
whom nobody but herself could discover anything to admire. 
Her pride, and perha'ps some better feelings, struggled hard 
against this degrading passion. But the struggle irritated her 
nerves, soured her temper, and at length endangered her 
health. Conscious that her choice was one which Johnson 
could not approve, she became desirous to escape from his 
inspection. Her manner towards him changed. She was 
sometimes cold and sometimes petulant. She did not conceal 
her joy when he left Streatham ; she never pressed him to 
return j and, if he came unbidden, she received him in a 
manner which convinced him that he was no longer a welcome 
guest. He took the very intelligible hints which she gave. 
He read, for the last time, a chapter of the Greek Testament 
in the library which had been formed by himself In a solemn 
and tender prayer he commended the house and its inmates to 
the Divine protection, and, with emotions which choked his 
voice and convulsed his powerful frame, left for ever that 
beloved home for the gloomy and desolate house behind Fleet 
Street, where the few and evil days which still remained to 
him were to run out. Here, in June 1783, he had a paralytic 
stroke, from which, however, he recovered, and which does not 
appear to have at all impaired his intellectual faculties. But 
other maladies came thick upon him. His asthma tormented 

■^ ' * » SAMUEL JOHNSON. [i709— 

him day and night. Dropsical symptoms made their appear- 
ance. While sinking under a complication of diseases, he 
heard that the woman whose friendship had been the chief 
happiness of sixteen years of' his life had married an Italian 
fiddler; that all London was crying shame upon her; and 
that the newspapers and magazines were filled with allusions to 
the Ephesian matron and the two pictures in Hamlet. He 
vehemently said that he would try to forget her existence. He 
never uttered her name. Every memorial of her which met 
his eye he flung into the fire. She meanwhile fled from the 
/ laughter and hisses of her countrymen and countrywomen to a 
land where she was unknown, hastened across Mount Cenis, 
and learned, while passing a merry Christmas of concerts 
and lemonade parties at Milan, that the great man with 
whose name hers is inseparably associated, had ceased to 

He had, in spite of much mental and much bodily affliction, 
clung vehemently to life. The feeling described in that fine 
but gloomy paper which closes the series of his Idlers seemed 
to grow stronger in him as his last hour drew near. He 
fancied that he should be able to draw his breath more easily 
in a southern climate, and would probably have set out for 
Rome and Naples but for his fear of the expense of the 
journey. That expense, indeed, he had the means of defray- 
ing ; for he had laid up about two thousand pounds, the fruit 
of labours which had made the fortune of several publishers. 
But he was unwilling to break in upon this hoard, and he 
seems to have wished even to keep its existence a secret. 
Some of his friends hoped that the government might be 
induced to increase his pension to six hundred pounds a year ; 
but this hope was disappointed, and he resolved to stand one 
English winter more. That winter was his last. His legs 
grew weaker ; his breath grew shorter ; the fatal water gathered 
fast, in spite of incisions which he, courageous against pain, 
but timid against death, urged his surgeons to make deeper 


and deeper. Though the tender care which had mitigated his 
sufierings during months of sicknes.s at Streatham. was with- 
drawn, he was not left desolate. The ablest physicians and 
surgeons attended him, .and refused to accept fees from him. ^ 
Burke parted from him with deep emotion. Windham sate 
much in the sick room, arranged the pillows, and sent his own 
servant to watch at night by the bed. Frances Burney, whom 
the old man had cherished with fatherly kindness, stood 
weeping at the door; while Langton, whose piety eminently ( 
qualified him to be an adviser and comforter at such a time, 
received the last pressure of his friend's hand within. When 
at length the moment, dreaded through so many years, came 
close, the dark cloud passed away from Johnson's mind. His 
temper became unusually patient and gentle ; he ceased to 
think with terror of death, and of that which lies beyond 
death ; and he spoke much of the mercy of God, and of the 
propitiation of Christ. In this serene frame of mind he died 
on the 13th of December 1784. He was laid, a week later, 
in Westminster Abbey, among the eminent men of whom he 
had been the historian, — Cowley and Denham, Dryden and 
Congreve, Gay, Prior, and Addison. 

Since his death, the popularity of his works — the Lives ot J ^,) 
the Poets, and, perhaps, the Vanity of Human Wishes excepted 
— has greatly diminished. His Dictionary has been altered 
by editors till it can scarcely be called his. An allusion to 
his Rambler or his Idler is not readily apprehended in literary 
circles. The fame even of Rasselas has grown somewhat dim. 
But though the celebrity of the writings may have declined, 
the celebrity of the writer, strange to say, is as great as ever. 
Boswell's book has done for him more than the best of his 
own books could do. The memory of other authors is kept 
alive by their works. But the memory of Johnson keeps many 
of his works alive. The old philosopher is still among us 
in the brown coat with the metal buttons, and the shirt 
which ought to be at wash, blinking, puffing, rolling his head, 

42 SAMUEL JOHNSON. [1709— 1784 

drumming with his fingers, tearing his meat like a tiger, and 
swallowing his tea in oceans. No human being who has been 
more than seventy years in the grave is so well known to us. 
And it is but just to say that our intimate acquaintance with 
what he would himself have called the anfractuosities of his 
intellect and of his temper, serves only to strengthen our 
conviction that he was both a great and a good man. 



1608 — 1674. 

The Life of Milton has been already written in so many 
forms, and with such minute inquiry, that I might perhaps 
more properly have contented myself with the addition of 
a few notes to Mr. Fenton's elegant Abridgement, but that 
a new narrative was thought necessary to the uniformity of 
this edition. 

John Milton was by birth a gendeman, descended from the 
proprietors of Milton near Thame in Oxfordshire, one of 
whom forfeited his estate in the times of York and Lancaster. 
Which side he took I know not ; his descendant inherited no 
veneration for the White Rose, l ^ c 

His grandfather John was keeper of the forest of Shotover, 
a zealous papist, who disinherited his son because he had 
forsaken the religion of his ancestors. 

His father, John, who was the son disinherited, had recourse 
for his support to the profession of a scrivener. He was a man 
eminent for his skUl in music, many of his compositions being 
still to be found; and his reputation in his profession was 
such, that he grew rich, and retired to an estate. He had 
probably more than com mon Ji terature, as his son addresses 
him in one of his most elaborate Latin poems. He married 


46 MILTON. [1608— 

a gentlewoman of the name of Caston, a Welsh family, by 
whom he had two sons, John the poet, and Christopher who 
studied the law, and adhered, as the law taught him, to the 
King's party, for which he was a while persecuted ; but having, 
by his brother's interest, obtained permission to live in quiet, 
he supported himself so honourably by chamber-practice, that 
soon after the accession of King James, he was knighted 
and made a Judge ; but, his constitution being too weak for 
business, he retired before any disreputable compliances be- 
came necessary. 

He had likewise a daughter Anne, whom he married with 
a considerable fortune to Edward Philips, who came from 
Shrewsbury, and rose in the Crown-Office to be secondary ; by 
him she had two sons, John and Edward, who were educated 
by the poet, and from whom is derived the only authentic 
account of his domestic manners. 

. John, the poet, was born in his father's house, at the Spread 
Eagle in Bread Street, Dec. 9, 1608, between six and seven in 
the morning. His father appears to have been very solicitous 
about his education ; for he was instructed at first by private 
tuition under the care of Thomas Young, who was afterwards 
chaplain to the English merchants at Hamburgh; and of 
whom we have reason to think well, since his scholar con- 
sidered him as worthy of an epistolary Elegy. 

He was then sent to St. Paul's School, under the care of Mr. 
Gill ; and removed, in the beginning of his sixteenth year, to 
Christ's College in Cambridge, where he entered a sizar, Feb. 
12, 1624. 

He was at this time eminently skUled in the Latin tongue ; 
and he himself, by annexing the dates to his first compositions, 
a boast of which the learned Politian had given him an ex- 
ample, seems to commend the earliness of his own proficiency 
to the notice of posterity. But the products of his vernal 
fertility have been surpassed by many, and particularly by 
his contemporary Cowley. Of the powers of the mind it is 

l674] MILTON. 


difficult to form an estimate : many have excelled Milton 
in their first essays, who never rose to works like Paradisa 

At fifteen, a date which he uses till he is sixteen, he trans- 
lated or versified two Psalms, 114 and 136, which he thought 
worthy of the public eye ; but they raise no great expectations : 
they would in any nun^erous school have obtained praise, but 
not excited wonder. 

Many of his elegies appear to have been written in his 
eighteenth year, by which it appears that he had then read 
the Roman authors with very nice discernment. I once heard 
Mr. Hampton, the translator of Polybius, remark what I 
think is true, that Milton was the first EngUshman who, 
after the revival of letters, wrote Latin verses with classic 
elegance. If any exceptions can be made, they are very 
few; Haddon and Ascham, the pride of Elizabeth's reign, 
however they may have succeeded in prose, no sooner 
attempt verses than they provoke derision. If we produced 
any thing worthy of notice before the elegies of Milton, it was 
perhaps Alabaster's Roxana. 

Of these exercises, which the rules of the University re- 
quired, some were published by him in his maturer years. 
They had been undoubtedly applauded, for they were such as 
- few can perform ; yet there is reason to suspect that he was 
regarded in his college with no great fondness. That he 
obtained no fellowship is certain ; but the unkindness with 
which he was treated was not merely negative. I am ashamed 
to relate what I fear is true, that Milton was one of the last 
students in either university that suffered the public indignity 
of corporal correction, 

It was, in the violence of controversial hostility, objected to 
him, that he was expelled. This he steadily denies, and it was 
apparently not true ; but it seeins plain, from his own verses 
to Dio^ati, that he had incuned " Rustication ; " a temporary 
dismission into the country, with perhaps the loss of a term ; 

. ycv 


48, MILTON. [1608— 

Lii^ Me tenet urbs refl^a^quam Thamesis alluit unda, 

Meque nee invitum patria dulcis habet. "^ 
,-< X'\--':'=-]a.m nee arumiiferum mihi cfira revisere Camum, 

Nee dildum veiitz me Mart's angit amor. — _ ,,•■•''■' 
Nee duri libet usque minas perferre magistri, , 

Cseteraque ingenio non subeunda meo. 
Si sit hoe exilium patrias adiisse penates, 

Et vacuum euris otia grata sequi, 
Non ego vA profugi noxntn sortemve recuse, 

Laetus et exilii conditione fruor. 

I cannot find any meaning but this, which even kindness 
and reverence can give to the term vetiti laris, " a habitation 
from which he is excluded;" or how exile can be otherwise 
interpreted. He declares yet more, that he is weary of en- 
during the threats of a rigorous master, and something else, which 
a temper like his cannot undergo. Wha,t was more than threat 
was probably punishment. This poem, which mentions his 
exile, proves likewise that it was not perpetual; for it con- 
cludes with a resolution of returning some time to Cambridge. 
And it may be conjectured from the willingness with which he 
has perpetuated . the memory of his exile, that its cause was 
such as gave him no shame. 

He took both the usual degrees — that of Bachelor in 1628, 
and that of Master in 1632 ; but he left the university with 
no kindness for its institution, alienated either by the inju- 
dicious severity of his governors, or his own captious perverse- 
ness. The cause cannot now be known, but the effect appears 
in his writings. His scheme of education, inscribed to Hartlib, 
supersedes all academical instruction, being intended to com- 
prise the whole time which men usually spend in literature, 
from their entrance upon grammar, till they proceed, as it is 
called, masters of arts. And in his discourse On the Likeliest 
Way to Remove Hirelings out of the Church, he ingeniously 
proposes that the profits of the lands forfeited by tJie act for 
superstitious uses should be applied to such academies all over the 
land, where languages and arts may be taught together ; so that 
youth may be at once brought up to a competency of learning and 

1674] MILTON. 49 

an honest trade, by which means such of them as had the gift, 
being enabled to support themselves {without tithes) by the latter, 
may, by the help of the former, become worthy preachers. 

One of his objections to academical education, as it was 
then conducted, is, that men designed for orders in the Church 
were permitted to act plays, writhing and unboning their clergy 
limbs to all the antick and dishonest gestures of Trincalos, buffoons 
and bawds, prostituting the shame of that ministry which they 
had, or were near having, to the eyes of courtiers and court-ladies, 
their grooms and mademoiselles. 

This is sufficiently peevish in a man, who, when he mentions 
his exile from the college, relates, with great luxuriance, the 
compensation which the pleasures of the theatre afford him. 
Plays were therefore only criminal when they were acted by 

He went to the university with a design of entering into 
the Church, but in time altered his mind; for he declared, 
that whoever became a clergyman must "subscribe slave, 
and take an oath withal, which, unless he took^ with a con- 
science that could retch, he must straight perjure himself. 
He thought it better to prefer a blameless silence before the 
office of speaking, bought and begun with servitude and 

These ejtpressions are, I find, applied to the subscription of 
the Articles ; but it seems more probable that they relate to 
can onica l obedience. I know not any of the Articles which 
seem to thwart his opinions ; but the thoughts of obedience, 
whether canonical or civil, raised his indignation. 

His unwillingness to engage in the ministry, perhaps not yet 
advanced to a settled resolution of declining it, appears in a 
letter to one of his friends, who had reproved his suspended 
and dilatory life, which he seems to have imputed to an in- 
satiable curiosity, and fantastick luxury of various knowledge. 
To this he writes a cool and plausible answer, in which he 
endeavours to persuade him that the delay proceeds not from 


50 MILTON. [i6oS- 

the delights of desultory study, but from the desire of obtaining 
more fitness for his task ; and that he goes on, not taking 
thought of being late, so it give advantage to be more fit. 

When he left the university, he returned to his father, then 
residing at Horton in Buckinghamshire, with whom he lived 
five years ; in which time he is said to have read all the Greek 
and Latin writers. With what limitations this universality is 
to be understood, who shall inform us ? 

It might be supposed that he who read so much should have 
done nothing else ; but Milton found time to write the masque 
of Comus, which was presented at Ludlow, then the residence 
of the Lord President of Wales, in 1634; and had the honour 
of being acted by the Earl of Bridgewater's sons and daughter. 
The fiction is derived from Homer's Circe ; but we never can 
refuse to any modern the liberty of borrowing from Homer : 

— a quo ceu fonte perenni i--' 
Vatum Pieriis era rigantur aquis. \ 

His next production was Lycidas, an elegy, written in 1637, 
on the death of Mr. King, the son of Sir John King, Secretary 
for Ireland in the time of Elizabeth, James, and Charles. 
King was much a favourite at Cambridge, and many of the wits 
joined to do honour to his memory. Milton's acquaintance, 
with the Italian writers may be discovered by a mixture of 
longer and shorter verses, according to the rules of Tuscan 
poetry, and his malignity to the Church by some lines which 
are interpreted as threatening its extermination. 

He is supposed about this time to have written his Arcades ; 
for while he lived at Horton he used sometimes to steal from 
his studies a few days, which he spent at Harefield, the house 
of the Countess Dowager of Derby, where the Arcades made 
part of a dramatic entertainment. 

He began now to grow weary of the country ; and had some 
purpose of taking chambers in the Inns of Court, when the 
death of his mother set him at liberty to travel, for which he 

1674] MILTON. 51 

obtained his father's consent, and Sir Henry Wotton's direc- 
tions, with the celebrated precept of prudence, i pensieri stretti, 
ed il visa sciolto ; " thoughts close, and looks loose." ■^ '/> 

In 1638 he left England, and went first to^Paris; where, b}r05t 
the favour of Lord Scudamore, he had the opportunity of'^^^ ", 
visiting Grotius, then residing at the French court as am- T- 
bassador from Christina of Sweden. From Paris he hasted L j ; 
into Italy, of which he had with particular diligence studied ' 
the language and literature : and, though he seems to have 
intended a very quick perambulation of the country, stayed ' 
two months at Florence ; where he found his way into the 
academies, and produced his compositions with such applause 
as appears to have exalted him in his own opinion, and con- 
firmed him in the hope, that, " by labour and intense study, 
which,'' says he, "I take to be my portion in this life, joined 
with a strong propensity of nature," he might "leave some- 
thing so written to after times, as they should not willingly 
let it die." 

It appears, in all his writings, that he had the usual con- 
comitant of great abilities, a lofty and steady confidence in 
himself, perhaps not without some contempt of others; for 
scarcely any man ever wrote so much, and praised so few. Of 
his praise he was very frugal; as he set its value high, and 
considered his mention of a name as a security against the 
waste of time, and a certain preservative from oblivion. 

At Florence he could not indeed complain that his merit 
wanted distinction. Carlo Dati presented him with an enco- 
miastick inscription, in the tumid lapidary style ; and Fra ncini -f 
wrote him an ode, of which the first stanza is only empty 
noise ; the rest are perhaps too diffuse on common topicks : 
but the last is natural and beautiful. 

From Florence he went to Sienna, and from Sienna to 
Rome, where he was again received with kindness by the 
learned and the great. Holstenius, the keeper of the Vatican •» 
Library, who had resided three years at Oxford, introduced 

E 2 

52 MILTON. [1608— 

him to Cardinal Barbe rini j and he, at a musical entertainment, 
waited for him at the door, and led him by the hand into the 
assembly. Here Selvaggi praised him in a distich, and Salsilli 
in a tetrastick : ^either of them of much value. The Italians 
were gainers by this literary commerce ; for the encomiums 
with which Milton repaid Salsilli, though not secure against a 
stern grammarian, turn the balance indisputably in Milton's 

Of these Italian testimonies, poor as they are, he was proud 
enough to publish them before his poems ; though, he says, he 
cannot be suspected but to have known that they were said 
non tarn de se, quam supra se. ■ ' ".Oii . , ^, ,ui^ ^ 

At Rome, as at Florence, he stayed only two months ; a time 
indeed sufficient, if he desired only to ramble with an explainer 
of its antiquities, or to view palaces and count pictures ; but 
certainly too short for the contemplation of learning, policy, or 

From Rome he passed on to Naples, in company of a 
hermit ; a companion from whom little could be expected, yet 
to him Milton owed his introduction to Ma^so, Marquis of 
Villa, who had been before the patron of Tasso.^' Manso was 
enough delighted with his accomplishments to honour him with 
a sorry distich, in which he commends him for everything but 
his religion ; and Milton, in return, addressed him in a Latin 
poem, which must have raised an high opinion of English 
elegance and literature. 

His purpose was now to have visited Sicily and Greece ; 
but, hearing of the differences between the King' and parlia- 
ment, he thought it proper to hastep home, rather than pass 
his life in foreign amusements while his countrymen were con- 
tending for their rights. He therefore came back to Rome, 
though the merchants informed him of plots laid against him 
by the Jesuits, for the libejty of his conversations on religion. 
He had sense enough to judge that. there was no danger, 
and therefore kept on his way, and acted as before, neither 

i674] MILTON. 53 

obtruding nor shunning controversy. He had perhaps given 
some offence by visiting Galileo, then a prisoner in the Inqui- 
sition for philosophical heresy ; and at Naples he was told by 
Manso, that, by his declarations on religious questions, he had 
excluded himself from some distinctions which he should 
otherwise have paid him. But such conduct, though it did 
not please, was yet sufficiently safe ; and Milton stayed two 
months more at Rome, and went on to Florence without 

From Florence he visited Lucca. He afterwards went to 
Venice; and having sent away a collection of musick and 
other books, travelled to Geneva, which he probably con- 
sidered as the metropolis of orthodoxy. Here he reposed, as 
in a congenial element, and became acquainted with John 
Diodati and Frederick Spanheim, two learned professors of 
Divinity. From Geneva he passed through France ; and came 
home, after an absence of a year and three months. 

At his return he heard of the death of his friend Charles 
Diodati ; a man whom it is reasonable to suppose of great 
merit, since he was thought by Milton worthy of a poem, 
intituled, Epitaphium Damonis, written with the common but 
childish imitation of pastoral life. 

He now hired a lodging at the house of one Russel, a taylor 
in St. Bride's Churchyard, and undertook the education of 
John and Edward Philips, his sister's sons. Finding his rooms 
too little, he took a house and garden in Aldersgate-street, 
which was not then so much out of the world as it is now ; 
and chose his dwelling at the upper end of a passage, that he 
might avoid the noise of the street. Here he received more 
boys, to be boarded and instructed. 

Let not our veneration for Milton forbid us to look with 
some degree of merriment on great promises and small per- 
formance, on the man who hastens home, because his country- 
men are contending for their liberty, and, when he reaches 
the scene of action, vapours away his patriotism in a private 

54 MILTON. [1608— 

boarding-school. This is the period of his life from which all 
his biographers seem inclined to shrink. They are unwilling 
• that Milton should be degraded to a schoolmaster ; but, since 
it cannot be denied that he taught boys, one finds out that he 
taught for nothing, and another that his motive was only zeal 
for the propagation of learning and virtue ; and all tell what 
they do not know to be true, only to excuse an act which no 
wise man will consider as in itself disgraceful. His father 
was alive ; his allowance was not ample ; and he supplied its 
deficiencies by an honest and useful employment. 

It is told, that in the art of education he performed wonders; 
and a formidable list is given of the authors, Greek and Latin, 
that were read in Aldersgate-street, by youth between ten and 
fifteen or sixteen years of age. Those who tell or receive these 
stories should consider that nobody can be taught faster than 
he can learn. The speed of the horseman must be limited by 
the power of his horse. Every man, that has ever undertaken 
to instruct others, can tell what slow advances he has been 
able to make, and how much patience it requires to recall 
vagrant inattention, to stimulate sluggish indifference, and to 
rectify absurd misapprehension. 

The purpose of Milton, as it seems, was to teach something 
more solid than the common literature of schools, by reading 
those authors that treat of physical subjects; such as the 
Georgick, and astronomical treatises of the ancients. This 
was a scheme of improvement which seems to have busied 
many literary projectors of that age. Cowley, who had more 
means than Milton of knowing what was wanting to the 
embellishments of life, formed the same plan of education in 
his imaginary college. 

But the truth is, that the knowledge of external nature, and 
the sciences which that knowledge requires or includes, are 
not the great or the frequent business of the human mind. 
Whether we provide for action or conversation, whether we 
wish to be useful or pleasing, the first requisite is the religious 

H i\ 

^v :f>.;>.r:^.'.'--0. 

i674] MILTON. 55 

and moral knowledge of right and wrong ; the next is an 
acquaintance with the history of mankind, and with those 
examples which may be said to embody truth, and prove by 
events the reasonableness of opinions. Prudence and Justice 
are virtues, and excellences, of all times and of all places ; we 
are perpetually moralists, but we are geometricians only by 
chance. Our intercourse with intellectual nature is necessary ; 
our speculations upon matter are voluntary, and at leisure. 
Physiological learning is of such rare emergence, that one man 
may know another half his life without being abl6 to estimate 
his skill in hydrostaticks or astronomy; but his moral and 
prudential character immediately appears. 

Those authors, therefore, are to be read at schools that 
supply most axioms of prudence, most principles of moral 
truth, and most materials for conversation ; and these purposes 
are best served by poets, orators, and historians. 

Let me not be censured for this digression as pedantick or 
paradoxical ; for if I have Milton against me, I have Socrates 
on my side. It was his labour to turn philosophy from the 
study of nature to speculations upon life ; but the innovators 
whom I oppose are turning off attention from life to nature. 
They seem to think, that we are placed here to watch the 
growth of plants, or the motions of the stars. Socrates was 
rather of opinion, that what we had to learn was, how to do 
good, and avoid evil. ,1 ^ ^ 'i ■ 

Ottl Toi^ ev_jieyapoia-L KaKovf dyadoijre reruxrai. 

Of mstitutions we may judge by their Effects. From this 
wonder-working academy, I do not know that there ever 
proceeded any man very eminent for knowledge: its only 
genuine product, I believe, is a small History of Poetry, 
written in Latin by his nephew Philips, of which perhaps 
none of my readers has ever heard.. 

That in his school, as in everything else which he under- 
took, he laboured with great diligence, there is no reason for 

5'' MILTON. [i6oS— 

doubting. One part of his method tlcsorvcs general imitation. 
He was careful to instruct his scholars in religion. Every 
Sunday was spent upon theology, of which he dictated a short 
system, gathered from the writers that were then fashionable 
in the Dutch universities. 

He set his pupils an example of hard study and spare diet ; 
only now and then he allowed himself to pass a d.iy of festivity 
and indulgence with some gay gentlemen of Gray's Inn. 

He now began to engage in the controversies of the times, 
and lent his breath to blow the flames of contention. In 1641 
he published a treatise of Reformation, in two books, against 
the established Churdh ; being willing to help the I'uritans, 
who were, he says, inferior to the Prelates in learning. 

Hall, bishop of Norwich, had published an 1 lumble Remon- 
strance, in defence of lipiscopacy ; to which, in 1641, six 
ministers, of whose names the first letters made the celebrated 
r word ^nectyninuus, gave their answer. Of this answer a 
Confutation was attempted by the learned Uslier j and to the 
Confutation Milton published a Reply, intituled. Of Prelatical 
lipiscopacy, and whether it may be deduced from the 
Apostolical Times, by virtue of those testimonies which 
are alle^ged to that purpose in some late treatises, one 
whereof goes under the name of James, Lord Hishop of 

I have transcribed this title, to shew, by his contemptuous 
mention of Usher, that he had now adopted the purilani<::U 
savageness of manners. His next work was. The Reason of 
Church Government urged against Prelacy, by Mr. John 
Milton, 1642. In this book he discovers, not willi osten- 
tatious exultation, but with calm confidence, his high opinion 
of his own powers ; and promises to undertake something, he 
yet knows not what, that may be of use and honour to liis 
country, "This," says he, "is not to be obtained but by 
devout prayer to that Eternal Spirit that can enrich witli 
all utterance and knowledge, and sends out his Seraphim 

1 -M-i... -'':'-'■•'' '•;rv<AiU,wj^,..(Mn... 

'■( 4- — - '■ ^ 


1674] MILTON. 57 

with the hallowed fire of his altar, to touch and purify the 
lips of whom he pleases. To this must be added, industrious 
and select reading, steady observation, and insight into all 
seemly and generous arts and affairs ; till which in some 
measure be compassed, I refuse not to sustain this expectation." 
From a promise like this, at once fervid, pious, and rational, 
might be expected the Paradise Lost. 

He published the same year two more pamphlets, upon the 
same question. To one of his antagonists, who affirms that 
he was vomited out of the university, he answers, in general 
terms, "The Fellows of the College wherein I spent some 
years, at my parting, after I had taken two degrees, as the 
manner is, signified many times how much better it would 
content them that I should stay. — As for the common appro- 
bation or dislike of that place, as now it is, that I should 
esteem or disesteem myself the more for that, too simple 
is the answerer, if he think to obtain with me. Of small 
practice were the physician, who could not judge, by what 
she and her sister have of long time vomited, that the worser 
stuff she strongly keeps in her stomach, but the better she is 
^■Ifevrfr k^king at, and is queasy : she vomits now out of sick- 
ness ; but before it be well with her, she must vomit by strong 
physick. — The university, in the time of her better health, 
and my younger judgement, I never greatly admired, but now 
much less." 

This is surely the language of a man who thinks that he has 
been injured. He proceeds to describe the course of his 
conduct, and the train of his thoughts ; and, because he has 
been suspected of incontinence, gives an account of his own 
purity: "That if I be justly charged," says he, "with this 
crime, it may come upon me with tenfold shame." 

The style of his piece is rough, and such perhaps was 
that of his antagonist. This roughness he justifies, by great 
examples, in a long digression. Sometimes he tries to be 
humorous: "Lest I should take him for some chaplain in 

^"''■' 'h <■"■-■-' -f 

58 '■'"'' MILTON. >\ [1608— 

v^ liand, some squire of the_body to his prelata, one who serves 

\ not at the altar only but at the court-cupbosird, he will bestow 

\on us a pretty model of himself j and sets tn^ out half a dozen 

ptisical mottos, wherever he had them, hopping short in the 

measure of convulsion fits ; in which labour the agony of his 

wit having scaped narrowly, instead of welUsized periods, he 

.i- greets us with a quantity of thumbring posies. — And thus ends 

} this section, or rather dissection of himself." Such is the 

^ controversial merriment of Milton ; his gloomy seriousness is 

yet more offensive. Such is his malignity, that hell grows darker 

at his frown. 

His father, after Reading was taken by Essex, came to reside 
in his house; and his school increased. At Whitsuntide, in 
his thirty-fifth year, he married Mary, the daughter of Mr. 
Powel, a justice of the peace in Oxfordshire. He brought 
her to town with him, and expected all the advantages of 
a conjugal life. The lady, however, seems not much to 
have delighted in the pleasures of spare diet and hard study : 
for, as Philips relates, " having for a month led a philosophical 
life, after having been used at home to a great house and 
much company and joviality, her friends, possibly by her own 
desire, made earnest suit to have her company the remaining 
part of the summer ; which was granted, upon a promise of 
her return at Michaelmas." 

Milton was too busy to much miss his wife : he pursued his 
studies ; and now and then visited the Lady Margaret Leigh, 
whom he has mentioned in one of his sonnets. At last 
Michaelmas arrived ; but the lady had no inclination to 
return to the sullen gloom of her husband's habitation, 
and therefore very willingly forgot her promise. He sent 
her a letter, but had no answer; he sent more with the 
same success. It could be alleged that letters miscarry; 
he therefore dispatched a messenger, being by this time too 
angry to go himself. His messenger was sent back witli 
some contempt. The family of the lady were Cavaliers. 

1674] MILTON. ' 59 

In a man whose opinion of his own merit was like Milton's, 
less provocation than this might have raised violent resentment. 
Milton soon determined to repudiate her for disobedience ; 
and, being one of those who could easily find arguments to 
justify inclination, published (in 1644) The Doctrine and Dis- 
cipline of Divorce ; which was followed by The Judgement of 
Martin Bucer, concerning Divorce ; and the next year his 
Tetrachordon, Expositions upon the four chief Places of 
Scripture which treat of Marriage. 

This innovation was opposed, as might be expected, by the 
clergy ; who, then holding their famous assembly at West- -Y 
minster, procured that the author should be called before the 
Lords; "but that House," says Wood, "whether approving 
the doctrine, or not favouring his accusers, did soon dismiss 

There seems not to have been much written against him, 
nor anything by any writer of eminence. The antagonist that 
appeared is styled by him, a Serving man turned Solicitor. 
Howel in his letters mentions the new doctrine with contempt ; 
and it was, I suppose, thought more worthy of derision than 
of confutation. He complains of this neglect in two sonnets, 
of which the first is contemptible, and the second not ex- 

From this time it is observed that he became an enemy to j^ 
the Presbyterians, whom he had favoured before. He that 
changes his party by his humour, is not more virtuous than he 
that changes it by his interest ; he loves himself rather than 

His wife and her relations now found that Milton was not 
an unresisting sufferer of injuries ; and perceiving that he had 
begun to put his doctrine in practice, by courting a young 
woman of great accomplishments, the daughter of one Doctor 
Davis, who was however not ready to comply, they resolved to 
endeavour a re-union. He went sometimes to the house of 
one Blackborough, his relation, in the lane of St. Martin's-le- 

6o MILTON. [1608— 

Grand, and at one of his usual visits was surprised to see his 
wife come from another room, and implore forgiveness on her 
knees. He resisted her entreaties for a while ; " but partly," 
says Philips, " his own generous nature, more inclinable to 
reconciliation than to perseverance in anger or revenge, and 
partly the strong intercession of friends on both sides, soon 
brought him to an act of oblivion and a firm league of peace. " 
It were injurious to omit, that Milton afterwards received her 
father and her brothers in his own house, when they were 
distressed, with other Royalists. 

He published about the same time his Areopagitica, a Speech 
of Mr. John Milton for the liberty of unlicensed Printing. 
The danger of such unbounded liberty, and the danger of 
bounding it, have produced a problem in the science of 
government, which human understanding seems hitherto unable 
to solve. If nothing may be published but what civil authority 
shall have previously approved, power must always be the 
standard of truth ; if every dreamer of innovations may pro- 
pagate his projects, there can be no settlement; if every 
murmurer at government may diffuse discontent, there can be 
no peace ; and if every sceptick in theology may teach his 
follies, there can be no religion. The remedy against these 
evils is to punish the authors ; for it is yet allowed that every 
society may punish, though not prevent, the publication of 
opinions which that society shall think pernicious ; but this 
punishment, though it may crush the author, promotes the 
book ; and it seems not more reasonable to leave the right of 
printing unrestrained, because writers may be afterwards cen- 
sured, than it would be to sleep with doors unbolted, because 
by our laws we can hang a thief 

But whatever were his engagements, civil or domestick, 
poetry was never long out of his thoughts. About this time 
(1645) a collection of his Latin and English poems appeared, 
in which the Allegro and Penseroso, with some others, were 
first published. 

1674] MILTON. 61 

He had taken a larger house in Barbican for the reception 
of scholars ; but the numerous relations of his wife, to whom 
he generously granted refuge for a while, occupied his rooms. 
In time, however, they went away ; " and the house again,'' 
says Philips, "now looked like a house of the Muses only, 
though the accession of scholars was not great. Possibly his 
having proceeded so far in the education of youth may have 
been the occasion of his adversaries calling him pedagogue 
and schoolmaster ; whereas it is well known he never set up 
for a publick school, to teach all the young fry of a parish ; 
but only was willing to impart his learning and knowledge to 
relations, and the sons of gentlemen who were his intimate 
friends ; and that neither his writings nor his way of teaching 
ever savoured in the least of pedantry." 

Thus laboriously does his nephew extenuate what cannot be 
denied, and what might be confessed without disgrace. Milton 
was not a man who could become mean by a mean employ- 
ment. This, however, his warmest friends seem not to have 
found ; they therefore shift and palliate. He did not sell 
literature to all comers at an open shop ; he was a chamber- 
mijliner, and measured his commodities only to his friends. 

Philips, evidently impatient of viewing him in this state of 
degradation, tells us that it was not long continued ; and, to 
raise his character again, has a mind to invest him with military 
splendour: "He is much mistaken," he says, "if there was 
not about this time a design of making him an adjutant-general 
in Sir William Waller's army. But the new-modelling of the 
army proved an obstruction to the design." An event cannot 
be set at a much greater distance than by having been only 
designed, about some time, if a man be not much mistaken. 
Milton shall be a pedagogue no longer ; for, if Philips be not 
much mistaken, somebody at some time designed him for a 

About the time that the army was new-modelled (1645) 
he removed to a smaller house in Holbourn, which opened 

62 MILTON. [1608— 

backward into Lincoln's-Inn-Fields. He is not known to , 
have published anything afterwards till the King's death, 
when, finding his murderers condemned by the Presbyterians, 
he wrote a treatise to justify it, and U compose the minds of 
the people. 

He made some Remarks on the Articles of Peace between 
Ormond and the Irish Rebels. While he contented himself to 
write, he perhaps did only what his conscience dictated ; and 
if he did not very vigilantly watch the influence of his own 
passions, and the gradual prevalence of opinions, first willingly 
admitted and then habitually indulged, if objections, by being 
overlooked, were forgotten, and desire superinduced conviction ; 
he yet shared only the common weakness of mankind, and 
might be no less sincere than his opponents. But as faction 
seldom leaves a man honest, however it might find him, Milton 
is suspected of having interpolated the book called Icon 
Basilike, which the Council of State, to whom he was now made 
Latin Secretary, employed him to censure, by inserting a 
prayer taken from Sidney's Arcadia, and imputing it to the 
King ; whom he charges, in his Iconoclastes, with the use of 
this prayer as with a heavy crime, in the indecent language 
with which prosperity had emboldened the advocates for re- 
bellion to insult all that is venerable or great : ' ' Who would 
have imagined so little fear in him of the true all-seeing Deity 
— as, immediately before his death, to pop into the hands of 
the grave Bishop that attended him, as a special relique of his 
saintly exercises, a prayer stolen word for word from the mouth 
of a heathen woman praying to a heathen god ! " 

The papers which the King gave to Dr. Juxon on the 
scaffold the regicides took away, so that they were at least the 
publishers of this prayer ; and Dr. Birch, who had examined 
the question with great care, was inclined to think them the 
forgers. The use of it by adaptation was innocent ; and they 
•who could so noisily censure it, with a little extension of their 
malice could contrive what they wanted to accuse. 

'1674] uniTOx. 63 

King Charles the Second, being now sheltered in Holland, 
employed Salmasius, professor of Polite Learning at Leyden, 
to write a defence of his father and of monarchy ; and, to 
excite his industrj^ gave him, as was reported, a hundred 
Jacobuses. Salmasius was a man of skill in languages, know- 
ledge of antiquity-, and sagacity of emendatory criticism, almost 
exceeding all hope of human attainment ; and having, by ex- 
cessive praises, been confirmed in great confidence of himself, 
though he probably had not much considered the principles of 
society or the rights of government, undertook the employment 
without distrust of his own qualifications ; and, as his expe- 
dition in writing was wonderful, in 1649 pubUshed Defensio 

To this Milton was required to write a sufficient answer; 
which he performed (1651) in such a manner, that Hobbes 
declared himself unable to decide whose language was best, or 
whose arguments were worst In my opinion, MUton's periods 
are smoother, neater, and more pointed ; but he deUghts him 
self with teizing his adversary as much as with confiiting him. 
He makes a foolish allusion of Salmasius, whose doctrine he 
considers as servile and unmanly, to the stream of Salmacis,_ 
which whoever entered left half his virility behind him. Salma- 
sius was a Frenchman, and was unhappily married to a scold. 
Tu es Gallus, says Milton, et, ut aiunt, nimium gaUinaceus. But 
his supreme pleasure is to tax his adversary, so renowned for 
crilicism, with v itiou s Latin. He opens his book with telling 
that he has used Persona, which, according to Milton, signifies 
only a Mask, in a sense not known to the Romans, by applying 
it as we apply Person. But as Xemesis is always on the 
watch, it is memorable that he has enforced the charge of a 
solecism by an expression in itself grossly soj ecist ical, when, 
for one of those supposed blunders, he sajrs, as Ker, and I 
think some one before him, has remarked, /ri^/w te gramma- 
iistis tnis vapnlandnm. From vapulo, which has a passive 
sense, vapulaadus can never be derived. No man forgets his 

64 MILTON. [1608— 

original trade : the rights of nations, and of kings, sink into 
questions of grammar, if grammarians discuss them. 

Milton when he undertook this answer was weak of body, 
and dim of sight ; but his will was forward, and what was 
wanting of health was supplied by zeal. He was rewarded 
with a thousand pounds, and his book was much read ; for 
paradox, recommended by spirit and elegance, easily gains 
attention ; and he who told every man that he was equal to 
his King could hardly want an audience. 

That the performance of Salmasius was not dispersed with 
equal rapidity, or read with equal eagerness, is very credible. 
He taught only the stale doctrine of authority, and the un- 
pleasing duty of submission ; and he had been so long not 
only the monarch but the tyrant of literature, that almost all 
mankind were delighted to find him defied and insulted by a 
new name, not yet considered as any one's rival. If Christina, 
as is said, commended the Defence of the People, her purpose 
must be to torment Salmasius, who was then at her Court ; for 
neither her civic station nor her natural character could dispose 
her to favour the doctrine, who was by birth a queen, and by 
temper despotick. 

That Salmasius was, from the appearance of Milton's book, 
treated with neglect, there is not much proof; but to a man so 
long accustomed to admiration, a little praise of his antagonist 
would be sufficiently offensive, and might incline him to leave Swe- 
den, from which, however, he was dismissed, not with any mark 
of contempt, but with a train of attendance scarce less than regal. 

He prepared a reply, which, left as it was imperfect, was 
published by his son in the year of the Restauration. In the 
beginning, being probably most in pain for his Latmity, he 
endeavours to defend his use of the word persona ; but, if I 
remember right, he misses a better authority than any that he 
has found, that of Juvenal in his fourth satire : 

— Quid agis cum dira & foedior omni 
-^ Crimine Persona est ? " ■ . , ^ 

1674] MILTON. 65 

As Salmasius reproached Milton with losing his eyes in the 
quarrel, Milton delighted himself with the belief that he had 
shortened Salmasius's life, and both perhaps with more 
malignity than reason. Salmasius died at the Spa, Sept. 3, 
1653 ; and as controvertists.are commonly said to be killed by 
their last dispute, Milton was flattered with the credit of 
destroying him. 

Cromwell had now dismissed the parliament by the authority 
of which he had destroyed monarchy, and commenced monarch 
himself, under the title of Protector, but with kingly and more 
than kingly power. That his authority was lawful, never was 
pretended ; he himself founded his right only in necessity ; 
but Milton, having now tasted the honey of publick employ- 
ment, would not return to hunger and philosophy, but, con" 
tinuing to exercise his office under a manifest usurpation, 
betrayed to his power that liberty which he had defended. 
Nothing can be more just than that rebellion should end in 
slavery ; that he, who had justified the murder of his king, for 
some acts which to him seemed unlawful, should now sell his 
services, and his flatteries, to a tyrant, of whom it was evident 
that he could do nothing lawful. 

He had now been blind for some years ; but his vigour of 
intellect was such, that he was not disabled to discharge his 
office of Latin secretary, or continue his controversies. His 
mind was too eager to be diverted, and too strong to be subdued. 
About this time his first wife died in childbed, having left 
him three daughters. As he probably did not much love her, 
he did not long continue the appearance of lamenting her; 
but after a short time married Catherine, the daughter of one 
captain Woodcock of Hackney; a woman doubtless educated 
in opinions like his own. She died within a year, of childbirth, 
or some distemper that followed it ; and her husband has 
honoured her memory with a poor sonnet. 

The first Reply to Milton's Defensio Populi was published in 
1651, called Apologia pro Rege et Populo Anglicano, contra 


66 MILTON. [1608— 

Johannis Polypragmatici (alias Miltoni) Defensionem Destruc- 
tivam Regis et Populi. Of this the author was not known ; 
but Milton and his nephew Philips, under whose name he 
published an answer so much corrected by him that it might 
be called his own, imputed it to Bramhal ; and, knowing him 
ho friend to regicides, thought themselves at liberty to treat 
hihi as if they had known what they only suspected. 

Next year appeared Regii Sanguinis Clamor ad Caelum. Of 
this the author was Peter du Moulin, who was afterwards 
prebendary of Canterbury ; but Morus, or More, a French 
minister, having the care of its publication, was treated as the 
writer by Milton in his Defensio Secunda, and overwhelmed by 
such violence of invective, that he began to shrink under the 
tempest, and gave his persecutors the means of knowing the 
true author. Du Moulin was now in great danger ; but 
Milton's pride operated against his malignity; and both he 
and his friends were more willing that Du Moulin should 
escape than that he should be convicted of mistake. 

In this second Defence he shews that his eloquence is not 
merely satirical ; the rudeness of his invective is equalled by 
the grossness of his flattery. " Deserimur, Cromuelle, tu solis u, 
superes, ad te summa nostrarum rerum rediit, in te solo con- 
sistit, insuperabili tuse virtuti cedimus cuncti, nemine vel 
obloquente, nisi qui asquales inasqualis ipse honores sibi 
quserit, aut digniori concessos invidet, aut non intelligit nihil 
esse in societate hominum magis vel Deo gratum, vel rationi 
consentaneum, esse in civitate nihil sequius, nihil utilius, quam 
potiri rerum dignissimum. Bum te agnoscunt omnes, Crom- 
uelle, ea tu civis maximus et gloriosissimus,^ dux public! 
consilii, exercituum fortissimorum imperator, pater patrise 
gessisti. Sic tu spontanea bonorum omnium et animitus 
missa voce salutaris." 

^ It may be doubted whether gloriosisnmus be here used with Milton's 
boasted purity. Hes gloriosa is an illustrious thing ; but vir gloriosus is 
commonly a braggart, as in miles gloriosus. 

1674] MILTON. 67 

Caesar, when he assumed the perpetual dictatorship, had not 
nnore servile or more elegant flattery. A translation may shew 
its servility; but its elegance is less attainable. Having ex- 
posed the unskilfulness or selfishness of the former government, 
"We were left," says Milton, "to ourselves: the whole national 
interest fell into your hands, and subsists only in your abilities. 
To your virtue, overpowering and resistless, every man gives 
way, except some who, without equal qualifications, aspire to 
equal honours, who envy the distinctions of merit greater than 
their own, or who have yet to learn, that in the coalition of 
human society nothing is more pleasing to God, or more 
agreeable to reason, than that the highest mind should have 
the sovereign power. Such, Sir, are you by general confession; 
such are the things atchieved by you, the greatest and most 
glorious of our countrymen, the director of our pubUck 
councils, the leader of unconquered armies, the father of your 
country ; for by that title does every good man hail you, with 
sincere and voluntary praise." 

Next year, having defended all that wanted defence, he 
found leisure to defend himself. He undertook his own 
vindication against More, whom he declares in his title to be 
justly called the author of the Regii Sanguinis Clamor. In 
this there is no want of vehemence nor eloquence, nor does he 
forget his wonted wit. " Morus es ? an Momus ? an uterque 
iderii est ? " He then remembers that Morus is Latin for a 
Mulberry-tree, and hints at the known transforrnation : 

■ — Poma alba ferebat 
Quse post nigra tulit Morus. *-^-''' 

With this piece ended his controversies ; and he from this 
time gave himself up to his private studies and his civil 

As secretary to the Protector he is supposed to have wiitten 
the Declaration of the reasons for a war with Spain. His 
agency was considered as of great importance ; for when a 

F 2 

68 MILTON. [1608— 

treaty with Sweden was artfully suspended, the delay was 
publickly imputed to Mr. Milton's indisposition ; and the 
Swedish agent was provoked to express his wonder, that only 
one man in England could write Latin, and that man blind. 

Being now forty-seven years old, and seeing himself dis- 
encumbered from external interruptions, he seems to have 
recollected his former purposes, and to have resumed three 
great works which he had planned for his future employment : 
an epick poem, the history of his country, and a dictionary of 
the Latin tongue. 

To collect a dictionary, seems a work of all others least 
practicable in a state of blindness, because it depends upon 
perpetual and minute inspection and coUation. Nor would 
Milton probably have begun it, after he had lost his eyes; 
but, having had it always before him, he continued it, says 
Philips, almost to his dying-day ; but the papers were so dis- 
composed and deficient, that they could not be fitted for the press. 
The compilers of the Latin dictionary, printed at Cambridge, 
had the use of those collections in three folios ; but what was 
' their fate afterwards is not known. 

To compile a history from various authors, when they can 
only be consulted by other eyes, is not easy, nor possible, but 
with more skilful and attentive help than can be commonly 

obtained ; and it was probably the difficulty of consulting and 

comparing that stopped Milton's narrative at the Conquest ; 

a period at which affairs were not yet very intricate, nor 

authors very numerous. 

For the subject of his epick poem, after much deliberation, 

long chusing, and beginning late, he fixed upon Paradise Lost ; 

a design so comprehensive, that it could be justified only by 

success. He had once designed to celebrate King Arthur, as 

he hints in his verses to Mansus : but Arthur was reserved, says 

Fenton, to qnofher destiny. 

It appears, by some sketches of poetical projects left in 

manuscript, and to be seen in a library at Cambridge, that he 

1 674] 



had digested his thoughts on this subject into one of those 
wild dramas which were anciently called Mysteries; and 
Philips had seen what he terms part of a trage3y7 beginning 
with the first ten lines of Satan's address to the Sun. These 
M^eries consist of allegorical persons ; such as Justice, 
Mercy, Faith. Of the tragedy or mystery of Paradise Lost 
there are two plans : 

The Persons. 

Chorus of Angels. 
Heavenly Love. 

Eve™' \ '*''* *^ Serpent. 





Discontent, V Mutes. 


with others ; 




The Persons. 
Divine Justice, Wisdom, 

Heavenly Love. 
The Evening Star, Hesperus^ 
Chorus of Angels. 

Death ; 

) Mutes 



Moses, irpoXoyi^ei, recounting how he assumed his true body ; 
that it corrupts not, because it is with God in the mount; 
declares the like of Enoch and Elijah; besides the purity of 
the place, that certain pure winds, dews, and clouds, preserves 
it from corruption : whence exhorts to the sight of God ; tells, 
they cannot see Adam in the state of innocence, by reason of 
their sin. 

70 MILTON. [1608- 

Justice, ■) 

Mercy, > debating what should become of man, if he fall. 

Wisdom, ) 

Chorus of Angels singing a hymn of the Creation. 


Heavenly Love. 

Evening Star. 

Chorus sings the marriage-song, and describes Paradise. 


Lucifer, contriving Adam's ruin. 

Chorus fears for Adam, and relates Lucifer's retellion and fall. 


Adam, ) - „ 

Eve, \ f^"^"- 

Conscience cites them to God's examination. 

Chorus bewails, and tells the good Adam has lost. 


Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise. 

presented by an angel with 

Labour, Grief, Hatred, Envy, War, Famine,") 

Pestilence, Sickness, Discontent, Ignorance, > Mutes. 

Fear, Death. J 

To whom he gives their names. Likewise Winter, Heat, 

Tempest, &c. 
Faith, ) 

Hope, I comfort him, and instruct him. 
Charity, ) 
Chorus briefly concludes. 

Such was his first design, which could have produced only 
an allegory, or mystery. The following sketch seems to have 
attained more maturity. 

1674] MILTON. 7t 

Adam unparadised : 

The angel Gabriel, either descending or entering ; shewing, 
since this globe was created, his frequency as much on earth 
as in heaven ; describes Paradise. Next, the Chorus, shewing 
the reason of his coming to keep his watch in Paradise, after 
Lucifer's rebellion, by command from God; and withal ex- 
pressing his desire to see and know more concerning this 
excellent new creature, man. The angel Gabriel, as by his 
name signifying a prince of power, tr acing Paradise with a 
more free office, passes by the station of the Chorus, and, 
desired by them, relates what he knew of man; as the 
creation of Eve, with their love and marriage. After this, 
Lucifer^ appears ; after his overthrow, bemoans himself, seeks 
revenge on man. The Chorus prepare resistance at his first 
approach. At last, after discourse of enmity on either side, he 
departs : whereat the Chorus sings of the battle and victory in 
heaven, against him and his accomplices : as before, after the 
first act, was sung a hymn of the creation. Here again may 
appear Lucifer, relating and insulting in what he had done to 
the destruction of man. Man next, and Eve having by this 
time been seduced by the Serpent, appears confusedly covered 
with leaves. Conscience, in a shape, accuses him; Justice 
cites him to the place whither Jehovah called for him. In the 
mean while, the Chorus entertains the stage, and is informed 
by some angel the manner of the Fall. Here the Chorus 
bewails Adam's fall ; Adam then and Eve return ; accuse one 
another ; but especially Adam lays the blame to his wife ; is 
stubborn in his offence. Justice appears, reasons with him, 
convinces him. The Chorus admonisheth Adam, and bids 
him beware Lucifer's example of impenitence. The angel is 
sent to banish them out of Paradise; but before causes to 
pass before his eyes, in shapes, a mask of all the evils of this 
life and world. He is humbled, relents, despairs : at last 
appears Mercy, comforts him, promises the Messiah ; then 

72 MILTON. [1608- 

calls in Faith, Hope, and Charity ; instructs him ; he repents, 
gives God the glory, submits to his penalty. The Chorus 
briefly concludes. Compare this with the former draught. 

These are very imperfect rudiments of Paradise Lost ; but 
it is pleasant to see great works in their seminal state, pregnant 
with latent possibilities of excellence; nor could there be 
any more delightful entertainment than to trace their gradual 
growth and expansion, and to observe how they are sometimes 
suddenly advanced by accidental hints, and sometimes slowly 
improved by steady meditation. 

Invention is almost the only literary labour which blindness 
cannot obstruct, and therefore he naturally solaced his solitude 
by the indulgence of his fancy, and the melody of his numbers. 
He had done what he knew to be necessaril;2_grevious to 
poetical excellence; he had made himself acquainted with 
seemly arts and affairs; his comprehension was extended by 
various knowledge, and his memory stored with intellectual 
treasures. He was skilful in many languages, and had by 
reading and composition attained the full mastery of his own. 
He would have wanted little help from books, had he retained 
the power of perusing them. 

But while his greater designs were advancing, having now, 
like many other authors, caught the love of publication, he 
amused himself, as he could, with little productions. He sent 
to the press (1658) a manuscript of Raleigh, called the Cabinet 
Council ; and next year gratified his malevolence to the clergy, 
by a Treatise of Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Cases, and the 
Means of removing Hirelings out of the Church. 

Qliver was now dead ; Richard was constrained to resign : 
the system of extemporary government, which had been held 
together only by force, naturally fell into fragments when that 
force was taken away ; and Milton saw himself and his cause 
in equal danger. But he had still hope of doing something. 
He wrote letters, which Toland has published, to such men as 

1674] MILTON. 73 

he thought friends to the new commonwealth ; and even in 
the year of the Restoration he bated no jot of heart or hope, 
but was fantastical enough to think that the nation, agitated as 
it was, might be settled by a pamphlet, called A Ready and 
Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth; which was, how- 
ever, enough considered to be both seriously and ludicrously 

The obstinate enthusiasm of the commonwealth men was 
vfery remarkable. When the King was apparently returning, 
Harrington, with a few associates as fanatical as himself, used 
to meet, with all the gravity of political importance, to settle 
an equal government by rotation ; and Milton, kicking when 
he could strike no longer, was foolish enough to publish, a few 
weeks before the Restoration, Notes upon a Sermon preached 
by one Griffiths, intituled. The Fear of God and the King. 
To these Notes an answer was written by L'Estrange, in a 
pamphlet, petulantly called No Blind Guides. 

But whatever Milton could write, or men of greater activity 
could do, the King was now about to be restored with the 
irresistible approbation of the people. He was therefore no 
longer secretary, and was consequently obliged to quit the 
house which he held by his office ; and proportioning his 
sense of danger to his opinion of the importance of his 
writings, thought it convenient to seek some shelter, and hid 
himself for a time in Bartholomew-Close by West Smithfield. 

I cannot but remark a kind of respect, perhaps uncon- 
sciously, pa,id to this great man by his biographers : every 
house in which he resided is historically mentioned, as if it 
were an injury to neglect naming any place that he honoured 
by his presence. 

The King, with lenity of which the world has had perhaps 
no other example, declined to be the judge or avenger of his 
own or his father's wrongs ; and promised to admit into the 
Act of Oblivion all, except those whom the parliament should 
except ; and the parliament doomed none to capital punish- 

74 MILTON. [1608— 

ment but the wretches who had immediately co-operated in the 
murder of the King. Milton was certainly not one of them ; 
he had only justified what they had done. 

This justification was indeed sufficiently offensive ; and 
(June 16) an order was issued to seize Milton's Defence, and 
Goodwin's Obstructors of Justice, another book of the same 
tendency, and burn them by the common hangman. The 
attorney-general was ordered to prosecute the authors; but 
Milton was not seized, nor perhaps very diligently pursued. 

Not long after (August 19) the flutter of innumerable 
bosoms was stilled by an act, which the King, that his mercy 
might want no recommendation of elegance, rather called an 
act of oblivion than of grace. Goodwin was named, with 
nineteen more, as incapacitated for any publick trust ; but of 
Milton there was no exception. 

Of this tenderness shewn to Milton, the curiosity of man- 
kind has not forborne to enquire the reason. Burnet thinks 
he was forgotten ; but this is another instance which may 
confirm Dalrym pie's observation, who says, "that whenever 
Burnet's narrations are examined, he appears to be mistaken.'' 

Forgotten he was not ; for his prosecution was ordered ; it 
must be therefore by design that he was included in the 
general oblivion. He is said to have had friends in the House, 
such as Marvel, Morrice, and Sir Thomas Clarges; and un- 
doubtedly a man like him must have had influence. A very 
particular story of his escape is told by Richardson in his 
Memoirs, which he received from Pope, as delivered by 
Betterton, who might have heard it from Davenant. In the 
war between the King and ParUament, Davenant was made 
prisoner, and condemned to die ; but was spared at the re- 
quest of Milton. When the turn of success brought Milton 
into the like danger, Davenant repaid the benefit by appearing 
in his favour. Here is a reciprocation of generosity and 
gratitude so pleasing, that the tale makes its own way to credit. 
But if help were wanted, I know not where to find it. The 

l674] MILTON. 7S 

danger of Davenant is certain from his own relation ; but of 
his escape there is no account. Betterton's narration can be 
traced no higher ; it is not known that he had it from Dave- 
nant. We are told that the benefit exchanged was life for 
life ; but it seems not certain that Milton's life ever was in 
danger. Goodwin, who had committed the same kind of 
crime, escaped with incapacitation; and as exclusion from 
publick trust is a punishment which the power of government 
can commonly inflict without the help of a particular law, it 
required no great interest to exempt Milton from a censure 
little more than verbal. Something may be reasonably ascribed 
to veneration and compassion ; to veneration of his abilities, 
and compassion for his distresses, which made it fit to forgive 
his malice for his learning. He was now poor and blind ; and 
who would pursue with violence an illustrious enemy, depressed 
by fortune, and disarmed by Nature ? 

The publication of the act of oblivion put him in the same 
condition with his fellow-subjects. He was, however, upon 
some pretence not now known, in the custody of the Serjeant 
in December ; and, when he was released, upon his refusal of 
the fees demanded, he and the serjeant were called before the 
House. He was now safe within the shade of oblivion, and 
knew himself to be as much out of the power of a griping 
officer as any other man. How the question was determined 
is not known. Milton would hardly have contended, but that 
he knew himself to have right on his side. 

He then removed to Jewin Street, near Aldersgate Street ; 
and being blind, and by no means wealthy, wanted a domestick 
companion and attendant ; and therefore, by the recommenda- 
tion of Dr. Paget, married Ehzabeth Minshul, of a gentleman's 
family in Cheshire, probably without a fortune. All his wives 
were virgins ; for he has declared that he thought it gross and 
indelicate to be a second husband : upon what other principles 
his choice was made cannot now be known; but marriage 
afforded not much of his happiness. The first wife left him 

75 MILTON. * [1608— 

in disgust, and was brought back only by terror ; the second, 
indeed, seems to have been more a favourite, but her life was 
short. The third, as Philips relates, oppressed his children in 
his life-time, and cheated them at his death. 

Soon after his marriage, according to an obscure story, he 
was offered the continuance of his employment ; and, being 
pressed by his wife to accept it, answered, " You, like other 
women, want to ride in your coach ; my wish is to live and 
die an honest man." If he considered the Latin secretary as 
exercising any of the powers of government, he that had 
shared authority either with the parliament or Cromwell, might 
have forborne to talk very loudly of his honesty ; and if he 
thought the office purely ministerial, he certainly might have 
honestly retained it under the King. But this tale has too little 
evidence to deserve a disquisition ; large offers and sturdy 
rejections are among the most common topicks of falsehood. 

He had so much either of prudence or gratitude, that he 
forbore to disturb the new settlement with any of his political 
or ecclesiastical opinions, and from this time devoted himself 
to poetry and literature. Of his zeal for learning, in all its 
parts, he gave a proof by pubUshing, the next year (1661), 
Accidence Commenced Grammar; a little book which has 
nothing remarkable, but that its author, who had been lately 
defending the supreme powers of his country, and was then 
writing Paradise Lost, could descend from his elevation to 
rescue children from the perplexity of grammatical confusion, 
and the trouble of lessons unnecessarily repeated. 

About this time Elwood the quaker, being recommended to 
him as one who would read Latin to him, for the advantage of 
his conversation, attended him every afternoon, except on 
Sundays. Milton, who, in his letter to Hartlib, had declared, 
that to read Latin with an English mouth is as ill a hearing as 
Law French, required that Elwood should learn and practise 
the Italian pronunciation, which, he said, was necessary, if he 
would talk with foreigners. This seems to have been a task 

i674] MILTON. 77 

troublesome without use. There is little reason for preferring 
the Italian pronunciation to our own, except that it is more 
general ; and to teach it to an Englishman is only to make him 
a foreigner at home. He who travels, if he speaks Latin, may 
so soon learn the sounds which every native gives it, that he 
need make no provision before his journey; and if strangers 
visit us, it is their business to practise such conformity to our 
modes as they expect from us in their own countries. Elwood 
complied with the directions, and improved himself by his 
attendance ; for he relates, that Milton, having a curious ear, 
knew by his voice when he read what he did not understand, 
and would stop him, and open the most difficult passages. 

In a short time he took a house in the Artillery Walk, 
leading to Bunhill Fields ; the mention of which concludes the 
register of Milton's removals and habitations. He lived longer 
in this place than in any other. 

He was now busied by Paradise Lost. Whence he drew 
the original design has been variously conjectured, by men 
who cannot bear to think themselves ignorant of that which, 
at last, neither diligence nor sagacity can discover. Some find 
the hint in an Italian tragedy. Voltaire tells a wild and un- 
authorised story of a farce seen by Milton in Italy, which 
opened thus : Let the Rainbow be the Fiddlestick of the Fiddle of 
Heaven. It has been already shewn, that the first conception 
was a tragedy or mystery, not of a narrative, but a dramatick 
work, which he is supposed to have begun to reduce to its 
present form about the time (1655) when he finished his 
dispute with the defenders of the King. 

He long before had promised to a:dorn his native country by 
some great performance, while he had yet perhaps no settled 
design, and was stimulated only by such expectations as 
naturally arose from the survey of his attainments, and the 
consciousness of his powers. What he should undertake, it 
was difficult to determine. He was long chusitig, and began late. 

While he was obliged to divide his time between the private 

78 MILTON. [1608— 

studies and affairs of state, his poetical labour must have been 
often interrupted ; and perhaps he did little more in that busy 
time than construct the narrative, adjust the episodes, propor- 
tion the parts, accumulate images and sentiments, and treasure 
in his memory, or preserve in writing, such hints as books or 
meditation would supply. Nothing particular is known of his 
intellectual operations while he was a statesman ; for, having 
every help and accommodation at hand, he had no need of 
uncommon expedients. 

Being driven from all publick stations, he is yet too great 
not to be traced by curiosity to his retirement ; where he has 
been found by Mr. Richardson, the fondest of his admirers, 
sitting before his door 171 a grey coat of coarse cloth, i?i warm 
sultry weather, to enjoy the fresh air ; and so, as well as in his 
own room, receiving the visits of people of distinguished parts as 
well as quality. His visitors of high quality must now be 
imagined to be few ; but men of parts might reasonably court 
the conversation of a man so generally illustrious, that 
foreigners are reported, by Wood, to have visited the house 
in Bread Street where he was born. 

According to another account, he was seen in a small house, 
neatly enough dressed in black cloaths, sitting in a room hung 
with rusty green ; pale but not cadaverous, with chalkstones in 
his hands. He said, that if it were not for the gout, his blhidness 
would be tolerable. 

In the intervals of his pain, being made unable to use the 
common exercises, he used to swing in a chair, and sometimes 
played upon an organ. 

He was now confessedly and visibly employed upon his 
poem, of which the progress might be noted by those with 
whom he was familiar ; for he was obliged, when he had com- 
posed as many lines as his memory would conveniently retain, 
to employ some friend in writing them, having, at least for 
part of the time, no regular attendant. This gave opportunity 
to observations and reports. 

1674] MILTON. 79 

Mr. Philips observes, that there was a very remarkable 
circumstance in the composure of Paradise Lost, "which I 
have a particular reason," says he, " to remember ; for whereas 
I had the perusal of it from the very beginning, for some , 
years, as I went from time to time to visit him, in parcels of 
ten, twenty, or thirty verses at a time (which, being written by 
whatever hand came next, might possibly want correction as to 
the orthography and pointing), having, as the summer came 
on, not been shewed any for a considerable while, and desiring 
the reason thereof; was answered that his vein never happily 
flowed but from the Autumnal Equinox to the Vernal ; and 
that whatever he attempted at other times was never to his 
satisfaction, though he courted his fancy never so much ; so 
that, in all the years he was about this poem, he may be said 
to have spent half his time therein." 

Upon this relation Toland remarks, that in his opinion 
Philips has mistaken the time of the year; for Milton, in his 
Elegies, declares that with the advance of the Spring he feels 
the increase of his poetical force, redeunf in carmina vires. 
To this it is answered, that Philips could hardly mistake time 
so well marked ; and it may be added, that Milton might find 
different times of the year favourable to different parts of life. 
Mr. Richardson conceives it impossible that such a work should 
be suspended for six mofiihs, or for one. It may go on faster w 
slower, but it must go on. By what necessity it must con- 
tinually go on, or why it might not be laid aside and resumed, 
it is not easy to discover. 

This dependence of the soul upon the seasons, those 
temporary and periodical ebbs and flows of intellect, may, I 
suppose, justly be derided as the fumes of vain imagination. 
Sapiens dominabitur astris. The author that thinks himself 
weather-bound will find, with a little help from hellibore, that 
he is only idle or exhausted. But while this notion has 
possession of the head, it produces the inability which it 
supposes. Our powers owe much of their energy to our 

8o , MILTON. [1608— 

hopes ; possunt quia posse videntur. When success seems 
attainable, diligence is enforced ; but when it is admitted that 
the faculties are suppressed by a cross wind, or a cloudy sky, 
, the day is given up without resistance ; for who can contend 
with the course of Nature ? 

From such prepossessions Milton seems not to have been 
free. There prevailed in his time an opinion that the world 
was in its decay, and that we have had the misfortune to be 
produced in the decrepitude of Nature. It was suspected 
that the whole creation languished, that neither trees nor 
animals had the height or bulk of their predecessors, and that 
everything was daily sinking by gradual diminution. Milton 
appears to suspect that souls partake of the general degeneracy, 
and is not without some fear that his book is to be written in 
an age too late for heroick poesy. 

Another opinion wanders about the world, and sometimes 
finds reception among wise men ; an opinion that restrains 
the operations of the mind to particular regions, and supposes 
that a luckless mortal may be born in a degree of latitude too 
high or too low for wisdom or for wit. From this fancy, wild 
as it is, he had not wholly cleared his head, when he 
feared lest the climate of his country might be too cold for 
flights of imagination. 

Into a mind already occupied by such fancies, another not 
more reasonable might easily find its way. He that could 
fear lest his genius had fallen upon too old a world, or too 
chill a climate, might consistently magnify to himself the 
influence of the seasons, and believe his faculties to be 
vigorous only half the year. 

His submission to the seasons was at least more reasonable 
than his dread of decaying Nature, or a frigid zone ; for 
general causes must operate uniformly in a general abatement 
of mental power ; if less could be performed by the writer, 
less likewise would content the judges of his work. Among 
this lagging race of frosty grovellers he might still have risen 

1674] MILTON. 81 

into eminence by producing something which they should not 
wiilhigly let die. However inferior to the heroes who were 
born in better ages, he might still be great among his con- 
temporaries, with the hope of growing every day greater in 
the dwindle of posterity, He might still be the giant of the 
pygmies, the one-eyed monarch of the blind. 

Of his artitices of study, or particular hours of composi- 
tion, we have little account, and there was perhaps little to be 
told. Richardson, who seems to have been very diligent in 
his enquiries, but discovers always a wish to find Milton 
discriminated from other men, relates, that " he would some- 
times lie awake whole nights, but not a verse could he make ; 
and on a sudden his poetical faculty would rush upon him 
with an impettis or cestrum, and his daughter was immediately 
called to secure what came. At other times he would dictate 
perhaps forty lines in a breath, and then reduce them to half 
the number." 

These bursts of lights, and involutions of darkness ; these 
transient and involuntary excursions and retrocessions of 
invention, having some appearance of deviation from the 
common train of Nature, are eagerly caught by the lovers of 
a wonder. Yet something of this inequality happens to every 
man in every mode of exertion, manual or mental. The 
mechanick cannot handle his hammer and his file at all 
times with equal dexterity ; there are hours, he knows not 
why, when Ms hand is out. By Mr. Richardson's relation, 
casually conveyed, much regard cannot be claimed. That, 
in his intellectual hour, Milton called for his daughter to secure 
what came, may be questioned ; for unluckily it happens to 
be known that his daughters were never taught to write ; nor 
would he have been obliged, as is universally confessed, to J 
have employed any casual visitor in disburthening his memory, 
if his daughter could have performed the office. 

The story of reducing his exuberance has been told of other 
authors, and, though doubtless true of every fertile and 

82 MILTON. [1608- 

copious mind, seems to have been glatuitously transferred to 

What he has told us, and we cannot now know more, is, 
that he composed much of his poem in the night and morning, 
I suppose before his mind was disturbed with common busi- 
ness ; and that he poured out with great fluency his unpre- 
meditated verse. Versification, free, like his, from the distresses 
of rhyme, must, by a work so long, be made prompt and 
habitual ; and, when his thoughts were once adjusted, the 
words would come at his command. 

At what particular times of his life the parts of his work 
were written, cannot often be known. The beginning of the 
third book shews that he had lost his sight ; and the Intro- 
duction to the seventh, that the return of the King had 
clouded him with discountenance ; and that he was offended 
by the licentious festivity of the Restoration. There are no 
other internal notes of time. Milton, being now cleared from 
all effects of his disloyalty, had nothing required from him but 
the common duty of living in quiet, to be rewarded with the 
common right of protection : but this, which, when he sculked 
from the approach of his King, was perhaps more than he hoped, 
seems not to have satisfied him ; for no sooner is he safe, than 
he finds himself in danger, fallen on evil days and evil tongues, 
and with darkness and with danger compas^d roujid. This 
darkness, had his eyes been better employed, had undoubtedly 
deserved compassion : but to add the mention of danger was 
ungrateful and unjust. He was fallen indeed on evil days; 
the time was come in which regicides could no longer boast 
their wickedness. But of evil tongues for Milton to complain 
required impudence at least equal to his other powers; 
Milton, whose warmest advocates must allow, that he never 
spared any asperity of reproach or brutality of insolence. 

But the charge itself seems to be false ; for it would be 
hard to recollect any reproach cast upon him, either serious or 
ludicrous, through the whole remaining part of his life. He 

1674] MILTON, 83 

pursued his studies, or his amusements, without persecution, 
molestation, or insult. Such is the reverence paid to great 
abilities, however misused ; they who contemplated in Milton 
the scholar and the wit, were contented to forget the revilerf 
his King. 

When the plague (1665) raged in London, Milton took refuge 
at Chalfont in Bucks ; where Elwood, who had taken the house 
for him, first saw a complete copy of Paradise Lost, and having 
perused it, said to him, " Thou hast said a great deal upon 
Paradise Lost ; what hast thou to say upon Paradise Found ? " 

Next year, when the danger of infection had ceased, he 
returned to Bunhill-fiields, and designed the publication of his 
poem. A license was necessary, and he could expect no great 
kindness from a chaplain of the Archbishop of Canterbury. 
He seems, however, to have been treated with tenderness ; for 
though objections were made to particular passages, and among 
them to the simile of the sun eclipsed in the first book, yet the 
license was granted; and he sold his copy, April 27, 1667, to 
Samuel Simmons, for an immediate payment of five pounds, 
with a stipulation to receive five pounds more when thirteen 
hundred should be sold of the first edition : and again five 
pounds afte'r the sale of the same number of the second 
edition : and another five pounds after the same sale of the 
third. None of the three editions were to be extended beyond 
fifteen hundred copies. 

The first edition was ten books, in a small quarto. The 
titles were varied from year to year ; and an advertisement and 
the arguments of the books were omitted in some copies, and 
inserted in others. 

The sale gave him in two years a right to his second pay- 
ment, for which the receipt was signed April 26, 1669. The 
second edition was not given till 1674 ; it was printed in small 
octavo, and the number of books was increased to twelve, by a 
division of the seventh and twelfth ; and some other small 
improvements were made. The third edition was published in 

84 .MILTON. [1608— 

1678 ;'and the widow, to whom the copy was then to devolve, 
sold all her claims to Simmons for eight pounds, according to 
her receipt given Dec. 21, 1680. Simmons had already agreed 
to transfer the whole right to Brabazon Aylmer for twenty- 
five pounds ; and Aylmer sold to Jacob Tonson half, August 
17, 1683, and half, March 24, 1690, at a price considerably 
enlarged. In the history of Paradise Lost a deduction thus 
minute will rather gratify than fatigue. 

The slow sale and tardy reputation of this poem have been 
always mentioned as evidences of neglected merit, and of the 
uncertainty of literary fame ; and enquiries have been made, 
and conjectures offered, about the causes of its long obscurity 
and late reception. But has the case been truly stated? 
Have not lamentation and wonder been lavished on an evil 
that was never felt ? 

That in the reigns of Charles and James the Paradise Lost 
received no publick acclamations, is readily confessed. Wit 
and literature were on the side of the Court : and who that 
solicited favour or fashion would venture to praise the defender 
of the regicides ? All that he himself could think his due, 
from evil tongues in evil days, was that reverential silence which 
was generously preserved. But it cannot be inferred that his 
pOem was not read, or not, however unwillingly, admired. 

The sale, if it be considered, will justify the publick. Those 
who have no power to judge of past times but by their own 
should always doubt their conclusions. The call for books 
was not in Milton's age what it is in the present. To read 
was not then a general amusement ; neither traders, nor often 
gentlemen, thought themselves disgraced by ignorance. The 
women had not then aspired to literature, nor was every house 
supplied with a closet of knowledge. Those, indeed, who pro- 
fessed learning, were not less learned than at any other time ; 
but of that middle race of students who read for pleasure or 
accomplishment, and who buy the numerous products of 
modern typography, the number was then comparatively small. 

1674]" MILTON. 85 

To prove the paucity of readers, it may be sufficient to remark, 
that the nation had been satisfied, from 1623 to 1664, that 
is, forty-one years, with only two editions of the works of -< 
Shakspeare, which probably did not together make one 
thousand copies. 

The sale of thirteen hundred copies in two years, in oppo- 
sition to so much recent enmity, and to a style of versification 
new to all and disgusting to many, was an uncommon example 
of the prevalence of genius. The demand did not immediately 
increase ; for many more readers than were supplied at first 
the nation did not afford. Only three thousand were sold in 
/ eleven years ; for it forced its way without assistance ; its 
admirers did not dare to pubKsh their opinion ; and the oppor- 
tunities now given of attracting notice by advertisements were 
then very few; the means of proclaiming the publication of 
new books have been,produced by that general literature which 
now pervades the nation through all its ranks. 

But the reputation and price of the copy still advanced, till 
the Revolution put an end to the secrecy of love, and Paradise 
Lost broke into open view with sufficient security of kind 

Fancy can hardly forbear to conjecture with what temper 
Milton surveyed the silent progress of his work, and marked 
his reputation stealing its way in a kind of subterraneous 
current through fear and silence. I cannot but conceive hirh 
calm and confident, little disappointed, not at all dejected, 
relying on his own merit with steady consciousness, and 
waiting, without impatience, the vicissitudes of opinion, and 
the impartiality of a future generation. 

In the mean time he continued his studies, and supplied the 
want of sight by a very odd expedient, of which Philips gives 
the following account : 

Mr. Philips tells us, " that though our author had daily about 
him one or other to read, some persons of man's estate, who, 
of their own accord, greedily catched at the opportunity of 

86 MILTON. [1608— 

being his readers, that they might as well reap the benefit 
of what they read to him, as oblige him by the benefit of 
their reading ; and others of younger years were sent by their 
parents to the same end : yet excusing only the eldest daughter, 
by reason of her bodily infirmity, and difficult utterance of 
speech, (which, to say truth, I doubt was the principal cause 
of excusing her), the other two were condemned to the per- 
formance of reading, and exactly pronouncing of all the lan- 
guages of whatever book he should, at one time or other, think 
fit to pemse, viz. the Hebrew (and I think the Syriac), the 
Greek, the Latin, the Italian, Spanish, and French. All which 
sorts of books to be confined to read, without understanding 
one word, must needs be a trial of patience almost beyond 
endurance. Yet it was endured by both for a long time, though 
the irksomeness of this employment could not be always con- 
cealed, but broke out more and more into expressions of 
■uneasiness ; so that at length they were all, even the eldest 
also, sent out to learn some curious and ingenious sorts of 
manufacture that are proper for women to learn ; particularly 
embroideries in gold or silver." 

In the scene of misery which this mode of intellectual 
labour sets before our eyes, it is hard to determine whether 
the daughters or the father are most to be lamented. A 
language not understood can never be so read as to give 
pleasure, and very seldom so as to convey meaning. If few 
men would have had resolution to write books with such 
embarrassments, few likewise would have wanted abihty to 
find some better expedient. 

Three years after his Paradise Lost (1667), 4ie published his 
History of England, comprising the whole fable of Geoffry of 
Monmouth, and continued to the Norman invasion. Why he 
should have given the first part, which he seems not to beUeve, 
and which is universally rejected, it is difficult to conjecture. 
The style is harsh ; but it has something of rough vigour, 
which perhaps may often strike, though it cannot please. 

i674] MILTON. 87 

On this history the licenser again fixed his claws, and before 
he would transmit it to the press tore out several parts. Some 
censures of the Saxon monks were taken away, lest they should 
be applied to the modern clergy ; and a character of the Long 
Parliament, and Assembly of Divines, was excluded, of which 
the author gave a copy to the earl of Anglesea, and which, 
being afterwards published, has been since inserted in its 
proper place. 

The same year were printed Paradise Regained, and Sam- 
son Agonistes, a tragedy written in imitation of the Ancients, 
and never designed by the author for the stage. As these 
poems were published by another bookseller, it has been 
asked, whether Simmons was discouraged from receiving them 
by the slow sale of the former. Why a writer changed his 
bookseller a hundred years ago, I am far from hoping to dis- 
cover. Certainly, he who in two years sells thirteen hundred 
copies of a volume in quarto, bought for two payments of 
five pounds each, has no reason to repent his purchase. 

When Milton shewed Paradise Regained to Elwood, " This," 
said he, " is owing to you ; for you put it in my head by the 
question you put to me at Chalfont, which otherwise I had not 
thought of." 

His last poetical offspring was his favourite. He could not, 
as Elwood relates, endure to hear Paradise Lost preferred to 
Paradise Regained. Many causes may vitiate a writer's judge- 
ment of his own works. On that which has cost him much 
labour he sets a high value, because he is unwilling to think 
that he has been diligent in vain ; what has been produced 
without toilsome efforts is considered with delight, as a proof 
of vigorous faculties and fertile invention ; and the last work, 
whatever it be, has necessarily most of the grace of novelty. 
Milton, however it happened, had this prejudice, and had it 
to himself. 

To that multiplicity of attainments, and extent of compre- 
hension, that entitle this great author to our veneration, may 

88 MILTON. [1608— 

be added a kind of humble dignity, which did not disdain the 
meanest services to literature. The epic poet, the controvertist, 
the politician, having already descended to accommodate chil- 
dren with a book of rudiments, now, in the last years of his 
life, composed a book of Logick, for the initiation of students 
in philosophy : and published (1672) Artis Logicae plenior 
Institutio ad Petri Rami methodum concinnata ; that is, "A 
new scheme of Logick, according to the Method of Ramus." 
I know not whether, even in this book, he did not intend an 
act of hostility against the Universities ; for Ramus was one 
of the first oppugners of the old philosophy, who disturbed 
with innovations the quiet of the schools. 

His polemical disposition again revived. He had now been 
safe so long, that he forgot his fears, and published a Treatise 
of true Religion, Heresy, Schism, Toleration, and the best 
Means to prevent the Growth of Popery. 

But this little tract is modestly written, with respectful 
mention of the Church of England, and an appeal to the 
thirty-nine articles. His principle of toleration is, agreement 
in the sufficiency of the Scriptures ; and he extends it to all 
who, whatever their opinions are, profess to derive them from 
the sacred books. The papists appeal to other testimonies, 
and are therefore in his opinion not to be permitted the liberty 
of either publick or private worship ; for though they plead 
conscience, we have no warrant, he says, to regard conscience 
which is not grounded in Scripture. 

Those who are not convinced by his reasons, may be 
perhaps delighted with his wit. The term Roman Catholick is, 
he says, one of the Pop^s bulls ; it is particular universal, or 
catholick schismatick. 

He has, however, something better. As the best preservative 
against Popery, he recommends the diligent perusal of the 
Scriptures ; a duty, from which he warns the busy part of 
mankind not to think themselves excused. 

He now reprinted his juvenile poems, with some additions. 

i674] illLTOX. 89 

In the last year of his life he sent to the press, seeming to 
take delight in publication, a collection of Familiar Epistles in 
Latin j to which, being too few to make a volume, he added 
some academical exercises, which perhaps he perused with 
pleasure, as the}- recalled to his memory the days of youth ; 
but for which nothing but veneration for his name could now 
procure a reader. 

^Mien he had attained his sixty-sixth year, the gout, with 
which he had been long tormented, prevailed over the en- 
feebled powers of nature. He died by a quiet and silent 
expiration, about the tenth of November, 1674, at his house 
in Bunhill-fields ; and was biffied next his father in the chancel 
of St Giles at Cripplegate. His fimeral was very splendidly 
and numerously attended. 

Upon his grave there is supposed to have been no memorial; 
but in our time a monument has been erected in Westminster- 
Abbey To the Author of Paradise Lost, by Mr. Benson, who has 
in the inscription bestowed more words upon himself than 
upon Milton. 

When the inscription for the monument of Philips, in which 
he was said to be soli Miltotw secundus, was exhibited to Dr. 
Sprat, then Dean of Westminster, he refused to admit it ; the 
name of Milton was, in his opinion, too detestable to be read 
on the wall of a building dedicated to devotion. Atterbury, 
who succeeded him, being author of the inscription, permitted 
its reception. "And such has been the change of publick 
opinion," said Dr. Gregory, from whom I heard this account, 
" that I have seen erected in the church a statue of that man, 
whose name I once knew considered as a pollution of its 

Milton has the reputation of having been in his youth 
eminently beautifiil, so as to have been called the Lady of his 
coUege. His hair, which was of a light brown, parted at the 
foretop, and hung down upon his shoulders, according to the 
picture which he has given of Adam. He was, however not 

90 MILTON. [1608— 

of the heroick stature, but rather below the middle size, 
according to Mr. Richardson, who mentions him as having 
narrowly escaped from being short and thick. He was vigorous 
and active, and dehghted in the exercise of the sword, in 
which he is related to have been eminently skilful. His 
weapon was, I believe, not the rapier, but the backsword, of 
which he recommends the use in his book on Education. 

His eyes are said never to have been bright ; but, if he was 
a dexterous fencer, they must have been once quick. 

His domestick habits, so far as they are known, were those 
of a severe student. He drank little strong drink of any kind, 
and fed without excess in quantity, and in his earUer years 
without delicacy of choice. In his youth he studied late at 
night; but afterwards changed his hours, and rested in bed 
from nine to four in the summer, and five in winter. The 
course of his day was best known after he was blind. When 
he first rose, he heard a chapter in the Hebrew Bible, and then 
studied till twelve ; then took some exercise for an hour ; 
then dined ; 'then played on the organ, and sung, or heard 
another sing ; then studied to six ; then entertained his visiters 
till eight ; then supped, and, after a pipe of tobacco and a 
glass of water, went to bed. 

So is his life described ; but this even tenour appears 
attainable only in Colleges. He that lives in the world will 
sometimes have the succession of his practice broken and 
confused. Visitors, of whom Milton is represented to have 
had great numbers, will come and stay unseasonably ; business, 
of which every man has some, must be done when others will 

When he did not care to rise early, he had something read 
to him by his bedside ; perhaps at this time his daughters were 
employed. He composed much in the morning, and dictated 
in the day, sitting obliquely in an elbow-chair, with his leg 
thrown over the arm. 

Fortune appears not to have had much of his care. In the 

i674] MILTON. gi 

civil wars he lent his personal estate to the parliament ; but 
when, after the contest was decided, he solicited repayment, 
he met not only with neglect, but sharp rebiike ; and, having 
tired both himself and his friends, was given up to poverty and 
hopeless indignation, till he shewed how able he was to do 
greater service, He was then made Latin secretary, with two 
hundred pounds a year ; and had a thousand pounds for his 
Defence of the People. His widow, who, after his death, 
retired to Namptwich in Cheshire, and died about 1729, is 
said to have reported that he lost two thousand pounds by 
entrusting it to a scrivener; and that, in the general depredation 
upon the Church he had grasped an estate of about sixty 
pounds a year belonging to Westminster-Abbey, which, like 
other sharers of the plunder of rebellion, he was afterwards 
obliged to return. Two thousand pounds, which he had 
placed in the Excise-office, were also lost. There is yet no 
reason to believe that he was ever reduced to indigence. His 
wants, being few, were competently supplied. He sold his 
library before his death, and left his family fifteen hundred 
pounds, on which his widow laid hold, and only gave one 
hundred to each of his daughters. 

His literature was unquestionably great. He read all the 
languages which are considered either as learned or polite; 
Hebrew, with its two dialects, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, 
and Spanish. In Latin his skill was such as places him in 
the first rank of writers and criticks ; and he appears to have 
cultivated Italian with uncommon diligence. The books in 
which his daughter, who used to read to him, represented him 
as most delighting, after Homer, which he could almost repeat, 
were Ovid's Metamorphoses and Euripides. His Euripides is, 
by Mr. Cradock's kindness, now in my hands : the margin is 
sometimes noted ; but I have found nothing remarkable. 

Of the English poets he set most value upon Spenser, 
Shakspeare, and Cowley. Spenser was apparently his favourite : 
Sliakspeare he may easily be supposed to like, with every other 

92 MILTON. [1608— 

skilful reader ; but I should not have expected that Cowley, 
whose ideas of excellence were different from his own, would 
have had much of his approbation. His cha racte r of Dryden, 
who sometimes visited him, was, that he was a good rhymist, 
but no poet. 

His theological opinions are said to have been first Calvin- 
istical ; and afterwards, perhaps when he began to hate the 
Presbyterians, to have tended towards Arminianism. In the 
mixed questions of theology and government, he never thinks 
that he can recede far enough from popery, or prelacy ; but 
what Baudius says of Erasmus seems applicable to him, magis 
habuit quod fugeret quam quod sequerdur. He had determined 
rather what to condemn, than what to approve. He has not 
associated himself with any denomination „of Protestants ; we 
know rather what he was not, than what he was. He was 
not of the Church of Rome ; he was not of the Church of 

To be of no church, is dangerous. Religion, of which the 
rewards are distant, and which is animated only 4>y Faith and 
Hope, will glide by degrees out of the mind, unless it be 
invigorated and reimpressed by external ordinances, by stated 
calls to worship, and the salutary influmce of example. 
Milton, who appears to have had full conviction of the 
truth of Christianity, and to have regarded the Holy Scriptures 
with the profoundest veneration, to have been untainted by an 
heretical peculiarity of opinion, and to have lived in a con- 
firmed belief of the immediate and occasional agency ot 
Providence, yet grew old without any visible worship. In 
the distribution of his hours, there was no hour of prayer, 
either solitary, or with his household ; omitting publick 
prayers, he omitted all. 

Of this omission the reason has been sought, upon a sup- 
position which ought never to be made, that men live with 
their own approbation, and justify their conduct to themselves. 
Prayer certainly was not thought superfluous by him, who 

1674] MILTON. 93 

represents our first parents as praying acceptably in the state 
of innocence, and efficaciously after their fall. That he lived 
without prayer can hardly be affirmed ; his studies and medi- 
tations were an habitual prayer. The neglect of it in his 
family was probably a fault for which he condemned himself, 
and which he intended to correct, but that death, as too often 
happens, intercepted his reformation. 

His political notions were those of an acrimonious and surly 
republican, for which it is not known that he gave any better 
reason than that a popular government was the most frugal; 
for the trappings of a monarchy would set up an ordinary 
commonwealth. It is surely very shallow policy, that supposes 
money to be the chief good ; and even this, without con- 
sidering that the support and expence of a Court is, for 
the most part, only a particular kind of traffick, by which 
money is circulated, without any national impoverishment. 

Milton's republicanism was, I am afraid, founded in an 
envious hatred of greatness, and a sullen desire of indepen- 
dence ; in petulance impatient of contrpul, and pride disdain- 
ful of superiority. He hated monarchs in the state, and 
prelates in the church ; for he hated all whom he was required 
to obey. It is to be suspected, that his predominant desire 
was to destroy rather than establish, and that he felt not so 
much the love of liberty as repugnance to authority. 

It has been observed, that they who most loudly clamour 
for liberty do not most liberally grant it. What we know of 
Milton's character, in domestick relations, is, that he was severe 
and arbitrary. His family consisted of women; and there 
appears in his books something like a Turkish contempt of 
females, as subordinate and inferior beings. . That his own 
daughters might not break the ranks, be suffered them to be 
depressed by a mean and penurious education. He thought 
woman made only for obedience, and man only for rebellion. 

Of his family some account may be expected. His sister, 
first married to Mr. Philips, afterwards married Mr. Agar, a 

94 MILTON. [1608— 

friend of her first husband, who succeeded him in the Crown- 
office. She had by her first husband Edward and John, the 
two nephews whom Milton educated; and by her second, 
two daughters. 

His brother, Sir Christopher, had two daughters, Mary and 
Catherine, and a son Thomas, who succeeded Agar in the 
Crown-office, and left a daughter living in 1749 in Grosvenor- 

Milton had children only by his first wife ; Anne, Mary, 
and Deborah. Anne, though deformed, married a master- 
builder, and died of her first child. Mary died single. De- 
borah married Abraham Clark, a weaver in Spitalfields, and 
lived seventy-six years, to August 1727. This is the daughter 
of whom publick mention has been made. She could repeat 
the first lines of Homer, the Metamorphoses, and some of 
Euripides, by having often read them. Yet here incredulity 
is ready to make a stand. Many repetitions are necessary 
to fix in the memory lines not understood ; and why should 
Milton wish or want to hear them so often ? These lines were 
at the beginning of the poems. Of a book written in a 
language not understood, the beginning raises no more atten- 
tion than the end ; and as those that understand it know 
commonly the beginning best, its rehearsal will seldom be 
necessary. It is not likely that Milton required any passage 
to be so much repeated as that his daughter could learn it; 
nor likely that he desired the initial lines to be read at all ; 
nor that the daughter, weary of the drudgery of pronouncing 
un-ideal sounds, would voluntarily commit them to memory. 

TTothis gentlewoman Addison made a present, and promised 
some establishment; but died soon after. Queen Caroline 
sent her fifty guineas. She had seven sons and three 
daughters ; but none of them had any children, except her 
son Caleb and her daughter Elizabeth. Caleb went to Fort 
St. George in the East Indies, and had two sons, of whom 
nothing is now known. Elizabeth married Thomas Foster, 

i674] MILTON. , 95 

a weaver in Spitalfields, and had seven children, who all died. 
She kept a petty grocer's or chandler's shop, first at HoUoway, 
and afterwards in Cock-lane near Shoreditch Church. She 
knew little of her grandfather, and that little was not good. 
She told of his harshness to his daughters, and his refusal to 
have them taught to write ; and, in opposition to other 
accounts, represented him as delic^tej though temperate, in 
his diet. 

In 1750, April 5, Comus was played for her benefit. She 
had so little acquaintance with diversion or gaiety, that she 
did not know what was intended when a benefit was offered 
her. The profits of the night were only one hundred and 
thirty pounds, though Dr. Newton brought a large contribu- 
tion ; and twenty pounds were given by Tonson, a man who 
is to be praised as often as he is named. Of this sum one 
hundred pounds was placed in the stocks, after some debate 
between her and her husband in whose name it should be 
entered ; and the rest augmented their little stock, with which 
they removed to Islington. This was the greatest benefaction 
that Paradise Lost ever procured the author's descendents 
and to this he who has now attempted to relate his Life, had 
the honour of contributing a Prologue. 

In the examination of Milton's poetical works I shall pay so 
much regard to time as to begin with his juvenile productions 
For his early pieces he seems to have had a degree of fond- 
ness not very laudable : what he has once written he resolves to 
preserve, and gives to the publick an unfinished poem, which he 
broke off because he was nothing satisfied with what he had done, 
supposing his readers less nice than himself. These preludes 
to his future labours are in Italian, Latin, and EngHsh. Of 
the ItaUan I cannot pretend to speak as a critick ; but I have 
heard them commended by a man well qualified to decide 
their merit. The Latin pieces are lusciously elegant ; but the 
delight which they afford is rather by the exquisite imitation 

96 MILtON. [1608— 

of the ancient writers, by the purity of the diction, and the 
harmony of the nurnbers, than by any power of invention, or 
vigour of sentiment. They are not all of equal value ; the 
elegies excell the odes ; and some of the exercises on 
Gunpowder Treason might have been spared. 

The English poems, though they make no promises of 
Paradise Lost, have this evidence of genius, that they have 
a cast original and unborrowed. But their pecuharity is not 
excellence; if they differ from verses of others, they differ 
for the worse ; for they are too often distinguished by repulsive 
harshness ; the combinations of words are new, but they are 
not pleasing ; the rhymes and epithets seem to be laboriously 
sought, and violently applied. 

That in the early parts of his life he wrote with much care 
appears from his manuscripts, happily preserved at Cambridge, 
in which many of his' smaller works are found as they were 
first written, with the subsequent corrections. Such reUques 
shew how excellence is^eqtiired ; what we hope ever to do 
with ease, we may learn first to do with diligence. 

Those who admire the beauties of this great poet, sometimes 
force their own judgement into false approbation of his little 
pieces, and prevail upon themselves to think that admirable 
which is only singular. All that short compositions can 
commonly attain is neatness and elegance. Milton never 
learned the art of doing little things with grace; he overlooked 
the milder excellence of suavity and softness ; he was a Lion 
that had no skill in dandling the Kid. 

One of the poems on which much praise has been bestowed 
is Lycidas; of which the diction is harsh, the rhymes uncer- 
tain, and the numbers unpleasing. What beauty there is, we 
must therefore seek in the sentiments and images. It is not 
to be considered as the efiusion of real passion ; for passion 
runs not after remote allusions and obscure opinions. Passion 
plucks no berries from the myrtle and ivy, nor calls upon 
Arethuse and Mincius, nor tells of rough satyrs and fauns with 

1674] MILTON. 97 

cloven heel. Where there is leisure for fiction there is little 

In this poem there is no nature, for there is no truth ; there 
is no art, for there^isjiotihing;__ne^ Its form is that of a 
pfistoral, easy, vulgar, and therefore disgusting : whatever 
images it can supply, are long ago exhausted ; and its inherent 
improbability always forces dissatisfaction on the mind. When 
Cowley tells of Hervey that they studied together, it is easy to 
suppose how much he must miss the companion of his labours, 
and the partner of his discoveries ; but what image of tender- 
ness can be excited by these lines ? 

We drove a field, and both together heard 
^ What time the grey fly winds her sultry horn. 
Battening our flocks with the fresh dews of night. 

We know that they never drove a field, and that they had no 
flocks to batten ; and though it be allowed that the representa- 
tion may be allegorical, the true meaning is so uncertain and 
remote, that it is never sought because it cannot be known 
when it is found. 

Among the flocks, and copses, and flowers, appear the 
heathen deities ; Jove and Phoebus, Neptune and ^olus, with 
a long train of mythological imagery, such as a College easily 
supplies. Nothing can less display knowledge, or less exercise 
.invention, than to tell how a shepherd has lost his companion, 
and must now feed his flocks alone, without any judge of his 
skill in piping; and how one god asks another god what is 
become of Lycidas, and how neither god can tell. He who 
thus grieves will excite no sympathy ; he who thus praises will 
confer no honour. 

This poem has yet a grosser fault. With these trifling 
fictions are mingled the most awful and sacred truths, such as \ 
ought never to be ■ polluted with such irreverend combinations. > 
The shepherd likewise is now a feeder of sheep, and after- | 
wards an ecclesiastical pastor, a superintendent of a Christian ; 


98 MILTON. [1608— 

flock. Such equivocations are always unskilful ; but here 
they are indecent, and at least approach to impiety, of which, 
however, I believe the writer not to have been conscious. 

Such is the power of reputation justly acquired, that its 
blaze drives away .the eye from nice examination. Surely no 
man could have fancied that he read Lycidas with pleasure, 
had he not known its author. 

Of the two pieces, L'Allegro and II Penseroso, I believe 
opinion is uniform ; every man that reads them, reads them 
with pleasure. The author's design is not, what Theobald has 
remarked, merely to show how objects derive their colours 
from the mind, by representing the operation of the same things 
upon the gay and the melancholy temper, or upon the same 
man as he is differently 'disposed ; but rather how, among the 
successive variety of appearances, every disposition of mind 
takes hold on those by which it may be gratified. 

The chearful man hears the lark in the morning ; the pensive 
man hears the nightingale in the evening. The chearful man 
sees the cock strut, and hears the horn and hounds echo in 
the wood ; then walks not unseen to observe the glory of the 
rising sun, or listen to the singing mUk-maid, and view the 
labours of the plowman and the mower ; then casts his eyes 
about him over scenes of smiling plenty, and looks up to the 
distant tower, the residence of some fair inhabitant ; thus he 
pursues rural gaiety through a day of labour or of play, and 
delights himself at night with the fanciful narratives of super- 
stitious ignorance. 

T^^ pensive man, at one time, walks unseen to muse at mid- 
night ; and at another hears the sullen curfew. If the weather 
drives him home, he sits in a room hghted only by glowing 
embers; or by a lonely lamp outwatches the North Star, to 
discover the habitation of separate souls, and varies the shades 
of meditation, by contemplating the magnificent or pathetick 
scenes of tragick and epic poetry. When the morning comes, 
a morning gloomy with rain and wind, he walks into the dark 

1674] MILTON. 99 

trackless woods, falls asleep by some murmuring water, and 
with melancholy enthusiasm expects some dream of prognosti- 
cation, or some musick played by aerial performers. 

Both Mirth and Melancholy are solitary, silent inhabitants of 
the breast that neither receive nor transmit communication'; 
no mention is therefore made of a philosophical friend, or a 
pleasant companion. The seriousness does not arise from any 
participation of calamity, nor the gaiety from the pleasured 
of the bottle. 

The man of chearfulness, having exhausted the country, tries 
what towered cities will afford, and mingles with scenes of 
splendor, gay assemblies, and nuptial festivities ; but h6 
mingles a mere spectator, as, when the learned comedies of 
Jonson, or the wild dramas of Shakspeare, are exhibited, he 
attends the theatre. 

The pensive man never loses himself in crowds, but walks 
the cloister, or frequents the cathedral. Milton probably had 
not yet forsaken the Church. 

Both his characters delight in musick; but he seems to 
think that chearful notes would have obtained from Pluto a 
compleat dismission of Eurydice, of whom solemn sounds 
only procured a conditional release. 

For the old age of Chearfulness he makes no provision; 
but Melancholy he conducts with great dignity to the close of 
life. His Chearfulness is without levity, and his Pensiveness 
without asperity. 

Through these two poems the images are properly selected, 
and nicely distinguished ; but the colours of the diction seem 
not sufficiently discriminated. I know not whether the 
characters are kept sufficiently apart. No mirth can, indeed, 
be found in his melancholy ; but I am afraid that I always 
meet some melancholy in his mirth. They are two noble 
efforts of imagination. 

The greatest of his juvenile performances is the Mask of 
Comus ; in which may vefy plainly be discovered the dawn of 

H 2 


lOO MILTON. [1608— 

twilight of Paradise Lost. Milton appears to have formed 
very early that system of diction, and mode of verse, which 
his maturer judgement approved, and from which he never 
endeavoured nor desired to deviate. 

Nor does Comus afford only a specimen of his language; 
it exhibits likewise his power of description and his vigour of 
sentiment, employed in the praise and defence of virtue. A 
work more truly poetical is rarely found ; allusions, images, 
and descriptive epithets, embellish almost every period with 
lavish decoration. As a series of lines, therefore, it may be 
considered as worthy of all the admiration with which the 
votaries have received it. 

As a drama it is deficient. The action is not probable. A 
Masque, in those parts where supe rnatural intervention is 
admitted, must indeed be given up to all the freaks of imagi- 
nation ; but, so far as the action is merely human, it ought to 
be reasonable, which can hardly be said of the conduct of the 
two brothers ; who, when their sister sinks with fatigue in a 
pathless wilderness, wander both away together in search of 
berries too far to find their way back, and leave a helpless 
L,ady to all the sadness and danger of solitude. This howevei 
is a defect overbalanced by its convenience. 

What deserves more reprehension is, that the prologue 
spoken in the wild wood by the attendant Spirit is addressed 
to the audience ; a mode of communication so contrary to the 
nature of dramatick representation, that no precedents can 
support it. 

The discourse of the Spirit is too long; an objection that 
may be made to almost all the following speeches : they have 
not the spriteliness of a dialogue animated by reciprocal con- 
tention, but seem rather declamations deliberately composed, 
and formally repeated, on a moral question. The auditor 
therefore listens as to a lecture, without passion, without 
anxiety. ' 

The-song of Comus has airiness an^i jollity ; but, what may 

1674] MILTON. loi 

recommend Milton's morals as well as his poetry, the invitations 
to pleasure are so general, that they excite no distinct images 
of corrupt enjoyment, and take no dangerous hold on the 

The • following soliloquies of Comus and the Lady are 
elegant, but tedious. The song must owe much to the voice, 
if it ever can delight. At last the Brothers enter, with too 
much tranquillity ; and when they have feared lest their sister 
should be in danger, and hoped- that she is not in danger, the 
Elder makes a speech in praise of chastity, and the Younger 
finds how fine it is to be a philosopher. 

Then descends the Spirit in form of a shepherd ; and the 
Brother, instead of being in haste to ask his help, praises his 
singing, and enquires his business in that place. It is remark- 
able, that at this interview the Brother is taken with a short fit 
of rhyming. The Spirit relates that the Lady is in the power 
of Comus ; the Brother moralises again ; and the Spirit makes 
a long narration, of no use because it is false, and therefore 
unsuitable to a good Being. 

In all these parts the language is poetical, and the senti- 
ments are generous ; but there is something wanting to allure 

The dispute between the Lady and Comus is the most 
animated and affecting scene of the drama, and wants nothing 
but a brisker recJ Brocat ion of objections and replies, to invite 
attention, and detain it. 

The songs are vigorous, and full of imagery ; but they are 
harsh in their diction, and not very musical in their numbers. 

Throughout the whole, tlie figures are too bold, and the 
language too luxuriant for dialogue. It is a drama in the epic 
style, inelegantly splendid, and tediously instructive. 

The Sonnets were written in different parts of Milton's life, 
upon different occasions. They "deserve not any particular 
criticism ; for of the best it can only be said, that they are not 
bad ; and perhaps only the eighth and the twenty-first are truly 

102 MILTON. [1608— 

entitled to this slender commendation. The fabrick of a 
sonnet, however adapted to the Italian language, has ever 
succeeded in ours, which, having greater variety of termina- 
tion, requires the rhymes to be often changed. 

Those little pieces may be dispatched without much anxiety; 
a 'greater work calls for greater care. I am now to examine 
Paradise Lost; a poem, which, considered with respect to 
design , may claim the first place, and with respect to perform- 
ance the second, among the productions of the human mind. 

By the general consent of criticks, the first praise of genius 
is due to the writer of an epick poem, as it requires an assem- 
blage of all the powers which are singly sufficient for other 
compositions. Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth, 
by calling imagination to the help of reason. Epick poetry 
undertakes to teach the most important truths by the most 
pleasing precepts, and therefore relates some great event in the 
most affecting manner. I^tory must supply the writer with 
the rudiments of narration, which he must improve and exalt 
by a nobler art, must animate by dramatick energy, and 
diversify by retrospection and anticipation ; rnorality must 
teach him the exact bounds, and different shades, of vice and 
virtue ; from 2olicy,_and the practice of life, he has to learn 
the discriminations of character, and the tendency of the 
passions, either single or combined; and p hysiolog y must 
supply him with illustrations and images. To put these 
materials to poetical use, is required an imagination capable 
of painting nature, and realizing fiction. Nor is he yet a 
poet till he has attained the whole extension of his language, 
distinguished all the delicacies of phrase, and all the colours 
of words, and learned to adjust their different sounds to all 
the varieties of metrical moderation. 

Bossu^is of opinion that the poet's first work is to find a 
moral, which his fable is afterwards to illustrate and establish. 
This seems to have been the process only of Milton ; the moral 
of other poems is incidental and consequent ; in Milton's only 

1^74] . MILTON. lej 

it is essential and intrinsick; His purpose was the most useful 

and the most arduous ; f£J!Hi^i£2iiJ!i£JS!S2iJ2L££^j2„ZS^ '•^ 
shew the reasonableness of religion, and the necessity of 
obedience to the Divine Law. 

To convey this moral, there must be a fable, a narration 
artfully constructed, so as to excite curiosity, and surprise 
expectation. In this part of his work, Milton must be con- 
fessed to have equalled every other poet. He has involved 
in his account of the Fall of Man the events which preceded, 
iand those that were to follow it : he has interwqventhe whole 
systemof theology with such propriety, that every part 
app"ears to be necessary; and scarcely any recital is wished 
shorter for the sake of quickening the progress of the main 

The subject of an epic poem is naturally an event of great 
importance. That of Milton is not the destruction of a city, the 
conduct of a colony, or the foundation of an empire. His 
subject is the fate of worlds, the revolutions of heaven and 
of earth ; rebellion against the Supreme King, raised by the 
highest order of created beings ; the overthrow of their host, 
and the punishment of their crime; the creation of a new- 
race of reasonable creatures ; their original happiness and 
innocence, their forfeiture of immortality, and their restoration 
to hope and peace. 

Great events can be hastened or retarded only by persons 
of elevated dignity. Before the greatness displayed in 
Milton's poem, all other greatness shrinks away. The weakest 
p^of his agents are the highest and noblest of human beings, 
the original . parents of iiiankind ; with whose actions the 
elements consented ; on whose rectitude, or deviation of will, 
depended the state of terrestrial nature, and the condition of 
all the future inhabitants of the globe. 

Of the other agents in the poem, the chief are such as it is 
irreverence to name on sUght occasions. The rest were lower 
powers ; 

104 MILTON. [1608— 

■ — of which the least could wield 
Those elements, and arm him with the force 
Of all their regions ; 

powers, which only the controul of Omnipotence restrains 
from laying creation waste, and filling the vast expanse of 
space with ruin and confusion. To display the motives and 
actions of beings thus superiour, so far as human reason can 
examine them, or human imagination represent them, is the 
task which this mighty poet has undertaken and performed. 

In the examination of epick poems much speculation is 
commonly employed upon the characters. The characters in 
the Paradise Lost, which admit of examination, are those of 
angels and of man; of angels good and evil; of man in his 
innocent and sinful state. 

Among the angels, the virtue of Raphael is mild and 
placid, ofrcasy condescensio n and free co mmunication ; that of 
Michael is regal and lofty, and, as may seem, attentive to the 
dignity of his own nature. Abdiel and Gabriel appear occa- 
sionally, and act as every incident requires; the solitary 
fidelity of Abdiel is very amiably painted. 

Of the evil angels the characters are more diversified. To 
Satan, as Addison observes, such sentiments are given as suit - 
the most exalted and most depraved being. Milton has been cen- 
sured, by Clarke,\for the impiety which sometimes breaks from 
Satan's mouth. For there are thoughts, as he justly remarks, 
which no observation of character can justify, because no good 
man would willingly permit them to pass, however transiently, 
through his own mind. To make Satan speak as a rebel, 
without any such expressions as might taint the reader's imagi- 
nation, was indeed one of the great difficulties in Milton's 
undertaking, and I cannot but think that he has extricated 
himself with great happiness. There is in Satan's speeches 
little that can give pain to a pious ear. The language of 
rebellion cannot be the same with that of obedience. The 
' Essay on Study. 

l674l MILTON. lo's 

malighity of Satan foams in haughtiness and obstinacy; but 
his expressions are commonly general, and no otherwise offen- 
sive than as they are wicked. 

The other chiefs of the celestial rebellion are very judiciously 
discriminated in the first and second books ; and the ferocious 
character of Moloch appears, both in the battle and the 
council, with exact consistency. 

To Adam and to Eve are given, during their innocence, 
such sentiments as innocence can generate and utter. Their 
love is pure benevolence and mutual veneration ; their repasts 
are without luxury, and their diligence without toil. Their 
addresses to their Maker have little more than the voice of 
admiration and gratitude. Fruition left them nothing to ask, 
and Innocence left them nothing to fear. 

Biit with guilt enter distrust and discord, mutual accusa- 
tion, and stubborn self-defence ; they regard each other with 
alienated minds, and dread their Creator as the avenger of 
their tra.nsgression. At last they seek shelter in his mercy, 
soften to repentance, and melt in supplication. Both before 
and after the Fall, the superiority of Adam is diligently 

Of the probable and the marvellous, two parts of a vulgar 
epic poem, which immerge the critick in deep consideration, 
the Paradise Lost requires little to be said. It contains the 
history of a miracle, of Creation and Redemption ; it displays 
the power and the mercy of the Supreme Being ; the probable 
therefore is marvellous, and the marvellous is probable. The 
substance of the narrative is truth; and as truth allows no 
choice, it is, like necessity, superior to rule. To the accidental 
or adventitious parts, as to every thing human, some slight 
exceptions may be made. But the main fabrick is immovably 

It is justly remarked by Addison, that this poem has, by 
the nature of its subject, the advantage above all others, that 
it is universally and perpetually interesting. All mankind will, 

To6 MILTON. [1608— 

through all ages, bear the same relation to Adam and to Eve, 
' and must partake of that good and evil which extend to 

Of the machinery, so called from 9cos a-na jjrixavve, by which 
is meant the occasional interposition of supernatural power, 
another fertile topic' of critical remarks, here is no room to 
speak, because every thing is done under the immediate and 
visible direction of Heaven ; but the rule is so far observed, 
that no part of the action could have been accomplished by 
any other means. , 

Of episodes, I think there are only two, contained in Raphael's 
relation of the war in heaven, and Michael's prophetick account 
of the changes to happen in this world. Both are closely 
connected with the great action ; one was necessary to Adam 
as a warning, the other as a consolation. 

To the compleatness or integrity of the design nothing can 
be objected ; it has distinctly and clearly what Aristotle re- 
quires, a beginning, a middle, and an end. There is perhaps 
no poem, of the same length, from which so little can be 
taken without apparent mutilation. Here are no funeral 
games, nor is there any long description of a shield. The 
short digressions at the beginning of the third, seventh, and 
ninth books, might doubtless be spared ; but superfluities so 
/' beautiful, who would take away ? or who does not wish that 
; the author of the Iliad had gratified succeeding ages with a 
i little knowledge of himself? Perhaps no passages are more 
frequently or more attentively read than those extrinsick para- 
graphs ; and, since the end of poetry is pleasure, that cannot 
be unpoetical vnth which all are pleased. 

The questions, whether the action of the poem be strictly 
one, whether the poem can be properly termed heroick, and 
who is the hero, are raised by such readers as draw their 
principles of judgement rather from books than from reason. 
Milton, though he intituled Paradise Lost only z.poem, yet calls 
it himself heroick song. Diyden, petulantly and indecently, 

1674] MILTON. 107 

denies the heroism of Adam, because he was overcome ; 
but there is no reason why the hero should not be unfor- 
tunate, except established practice, since success and virtue 
do not go necessarily together. Cato is the hero of Lucan : 
but Lucan's authority will not be suffered by Quintilian to 
decide. However, if success be necessary, Adam's deceiver 
was at last crushed; Adam was restored to his Maker's favour, 
and therefore may securely resume his human rank. 

After the scheme and fabrick of the poem, must be con- 
sidered its component parts, the sentiments and the diction. 

The sentiments, as expressive of manners, or appropriated 
to characters, are, for the greater part, unexceptionably just. 

Splendid passages, containing lessons of morality, or precepts 
of prudence, occur seldom. Such is the original formation of 
this poem, that as it admits no human manners till the Fall, it 
can give little assistance to human conduct. Its end is to 
raise the thoughts above sublunary cares or pleasures. Yet 
the praise of that fortitude, with which Abdiel maintained his 
singularity of virtue against the scorn of multitudes, may be 
accommodated to all times ; and Raphael's reproof of Adam's 
curiosity after the planetary motions, with the answer returned 
by Adam, may be confidently 0££^ed to any rule of life which 
any poet has delivered. 

The thoughts which are occasionally called forth in the 
progress, are such as could only be produced by an imagination 
in the highest degree fervid and active, to which materials were 
supplied by incessant study and unlimited curiosity. The heat 
of Milton's mind might be said to sublimate his learning, to 
throw off into his work the spirit of science, unmingled with 
its grosser parts. 

He had considered creation in its whole extent, and his 
descriptions are therefore learned. He had accustomed his 
imagination to unrestrained indulgence, and his conceptions 
therefore were extensive. The characteristick quality of his 
poem is sublimity. He sometimes descends to the elegant. 

io8 MILTON. [1608- 

but his element is the great. He can occasionally invest 
himself with grace; but his natural port is gigantick loftiness.' 
He can please when pleasure is required ; but it is his pecuHar 
power to astonish. 

He seems to have been well acquainted with his own genius, 
and to know what it was that Nature had bestowed upon him 
more bountifully than upon others ; the power of displaying, 
the vast, illuminating the splendid, enforcing the awful, 
darkening the gloomy, and aggravating the dreadful : he 
therefore chose a subject on which too much could not 
be said, on which he might tire his fancy without the 
censure of extravagance. 

The appearances of Nature, and the occurrences of life, did 
not satiate his appetite of greatness. To paint things as they 
are requires a minute attention, and employs the memory 
rather than the fancy. Milton's delight was to sport in the 
wide regions of possibility ; reality was a scene too narrow for 
his mind. He sent his faculties out upon discovery, into 
worlds where only imagination can travel, and delighted to 
form new modes of existence, and furnish sentiment and 
action to superior beings, to trace the counsels of hell, or 
accompany the choirs of heaven. 

But he could not be always in other worlds : he must 
sometimes revisit earth, and tell of things visible and known. 
When he cannot raise wonder by the sublimity of his mind, he 
gives delight by its fertility. 

Whatever be his subject, he never fails to fill the imagination; 
But his images and descriptions of the scenes or operations of 
Nature do not seem to be always copied from original form, 
nor to have the freshness, raciness, and energy of immediate 
observation. He saw Nature, as Dryden expresses it, through 
the spectacles of books ; aftd on most occasions calls learning to 
his assistance.. The garden of Eden brings to his mind the 
vale of Enna, where Proserpine was gathering flowers. Satan 
1 Algarotti terms it giganiesea suUimiih Miltoniana. 

1S74] MILTON. 109 

makes his way through fighting elements, like Argo between 
the Cyanean rocks, or Ulysses between the two Sicilian 
whirlpools, when he shunned Charybdis on the larboard. The 
mythological allusions have been justly censured, as not being 
always used with notjce of their vanity ; but they contribute 
variety to the narration, and produce an alternate exercise of 
the memory and the fancy. 

His similies are less numerous, and more various, than those 
of his predecessors. But he does not confine himself within 
the limits of rigorous comparison : his great excellence is 
amplitude, and he expands the adventitious image beyond the 
dimensions which the occasion required. Thus, comparing 
the shield of Satan to the orb of the Moon, he crowds the 
imagination with the discovery of the telescope, and all the 
wonders which the telescope discovers. 

Of his moral sentiments it is hardly praise to affirm that they 
excel those of all other poets ; for this superiority he was 
indebted to his acquaintance with the sacred writings. The 
ancient epick poets, wanting the light of Revelation, were very 
unskilful teachers of virtue : their principal characters may be 
great, but they are not amia ble. The reader may rise from 
their works with a greater degree of active or passive fortitude, 
and sometimes of prudence ; but he will be able to carry away' 
few precepts of justice, and none of mercy. 

From the Italian writers it appears, that the advantages of 
even Christian knowledge may be supEOsed in vain. Ariosto's vi 
pravity is generally known ; and though the Deliverance of 
Jerusalem may be considered as a sacred subject, the poet has ^ 
been very sparing of moral instruction. 

In Milton every line breathes sanctity of thought, and purity 
of manners, except when the train of the narration requires the 
introduction of the rebellious Spirits ; and even they are com'- 
pelled to acknowledge their subjection to God, in such a manner 
as excites reverence, and confirms piety. 

Of human beings there are but two ; but those two are the 

no MILTON. [1608^ 

parents of mankind, venerable before their fall for dignity and 
innocence, and amiable after it for repentance and submission. 
In their first state their affection is tender without weakness, 
and their piety sublime without presumption. When they^have 
sinned, they shew how discord begins in mutual frailty, and 
how it ought to cease in mutual forbearance ; how confidence 
of the divine favour is forfeited by sin, and how hope of 
pardon may be obtained by penitence and prayer. A state of 
innocence we can only conceive, if indeed, in our present 
misery, it be possible to conceive it ; but the sentiments and 
worship proper to a fallen and offending being, we have all to 
learn, as we have all to practise. 

The poet, whatever be done, is always great. Our pro- 
genitors, in their first state, conversed with angels ; even when 
folly and sin had degraded them, they had not in their 
humiliation the port of mean suitors ; and they rise again to 
reverential regard, when we find that their prayers were 

As human passions did not enter the world before the Fall, 
there is in the Paradise Lost little opportunity for the pathetick ; 
but what little there is has not been lost. That passion which 
, is peculiar to rational nature, the anguish arising from the 
consciousness of transgression, and the horrors attending the 
sense of the Divine displeasure, are very justly described and 
forcibly impressed. But the passions are moved only on one 
occasion; sublimity is the general and prevailing quality in 
this poem ; sublimity variously modified, sometimes descriptive, 
sometimes argumentative. 

The defects and faults of Paradise Lost, for faults and 
defects every work of man must have, it is the business of 
impartial criticism to discover. As, in displaying the excel- 
lence of Milton, I have not made long quotations, because of 
selecting beauties there had been no end, I shall in the same 
general manner mention that which seems to deserve censure ; 
for what Englishman can take delight in transcribing passages, 

1674] MILTON. II r 

which, if they lessen the reputation of Milton, diminish in 
some degree the honour of our country ? 

The generality of my scheme does not admit the frequent 
notice of verbal inaccuracies ; which Bentley, perhaps better 
skilled in grammar than in poetry, has often found, though he 
sometimes made them, and which he imputed to the obtru- , 
sions of a reviser whom the author's blindness obliged him 
to employ. A supposition rash and groundless, if he thought 
it true ; and vile and pernicious, if, as is said, he in private 
allowed it to be false. 

The plan of Paradise Lost has this inconvenience, that it 
comprises neither human actions nor human manners. The 
man and woman who act and suffer, are in a state which 
no other man or woman can ever know. The reader finds 
no transaction in which he can be engaged ; beholds no 
condition in which he can by any effort of imagination 
place himself; he has, therefore, little natural curiosity or 

We all, indeed, feel the effects of Adam's disobedience ; we 
all sin like Adam, and like hitti must all bewail our offences ; 
we have restless and insidious enemies in the fallen angels, 
and in the blessed spirits we have guardians and friends ; in 
the Redemption of mankind we hope to be included : in 
the description of heaven and hell we are surely interested, 
as we are all to reside hereafter either in the regions of horror 
or bliss. - 

But these truths are too important to be new; they have <k 
been taught to our infancy; they have mingled with our soli-fK: 
tary thoughts and familiar conversation, and are habitually ^" 
interwoven with the whole texture of life. Being therefore 
not new, they raise no unaccustomed emotion in the mind ; 
what we knew before, we cannot learn ; what is not unexpected, 
cannot surprise. 

Of the ideas suggested by these awful scenes, from some we 
recede with reverence, except when stated hours require their 

112 MILTON. [1608^ 

association ; and from others we shrink with horrour, or admit 
them only as salutary inflictions, as counterpoises to our in- 
terests and passions. Such images rather obstruct the career 
of fancy than incite it 

Pleasure and terrour are indeed the genuine soMces of 
poetry ; but poetical pleasure must be such as human imagi- 
nation can at least conceive, and poetical terrour such as 
human strength and fortitude may combat. The good and 
evil of Eternity are too ponderous for the wings of wit; the 
mind sinks under them in passive helplessness, content with 
calm belief and humble adoration. 

Known truths, however, may take a different appearance, 
and be conveyed to the mind by a new train of intermediate 
images. This Milton has undertaken, and performed with 
pregnancy and vigour of mind peculiar to himself. Whoever 
considers the few radical positions which the Scriptures afforded 
him, will wonder by what energetick operation he expanded 
them to such extent, and ramified them to so much variety, 
restrained as he was by religious reverence from licentiousness 
of fiction. 

Here is a full display of the united force of study and 
genius ; of a great accumulation of materials, with judgement 
to digest, and fancy to combine them : Milton was able to 
select from nature, or from story, from ancient fable, or from 
rhodern science, whatever could illustrate or adorn his thoughts. 
An accumulation of knowledge impregnated his mind, fer- 
mented by study, and exalted by imagination. 

It has been therefore said, without an indecent hyperbole, 
by one of his encomiasts, that in reading Paradise Lost we 
read a book of universal knowledge. 

But original deficience cannot be supplied. The want of 
human interest is always felt. Paradise Lost is one of the 
books which the reader admires and lays down, and forgets to 
take up again. None ever wished it longer than it is. Its 
perusal is a duty rather than a pleasure. We read Milton for 

1674] MILTON. 113 

instruction, retireTharassed and overburdened, and look else- 
where for recreation ; we desert our master, and seek for 

Another inconvenience of Milton's design is, that it requires 
the description of what cannot be described, the agency of 
spirits. He saw that immateriaUty supplied no images, and 
that he could not show angels acting but by instruments of 
action : he therefore invested them with form and matter. 
This, being necessary, was therefore defensible ; and he should 
have secured the consistency of his " system, by keeping 
immateriality out of sight, and enticing his reader to drep it 
from his thoughts. But he has unhappily perplexed his poetry 
with his philosophy. His infernal and celestial powers are 
sometimes pure spirit, and sometimes animated body. When 
Satan walks with his lance upon the burning marie, he has a 
body ; when, in his passage between hell and the new world, 
he is in danger of sinking in the vacuity, and is supported by 
a gust of rising vapours, he has a body ; when he animates 
the toad, he seems to be mere spirit, that can penetrate matter 
at pleasure; when he starts up in his own shape, he has at 
least a determined form; and when he is brought before 
Gabriel, he has a spear and a shield, which he had the power 
of hiding in the toad, though the arms of the contending angels 
are evidently material. 

The vulgar inhabitants of Pandsemonium, being incorporeal 
spirits, are at large, though without number, in a limited space ; 
yet in the battle, when they were overwhelmed by mountains, 
their armour hurt them, crushed in upon their substance, now 
grown gross by sinning. This likewise happened to the un- 
corrupted angels, who were overthrown the sooner for their arms, 
for utiarmed they might easily as spirits have evaded by contraction 
or remove. Even as spirits they are hardly spiritual ; for con- 
traction and remove are images of matter ; but if they could 
have escaped without their armour, they might have escaped 
from it, and left only the empty cover to be battered. Uriel, 


114 MILTON. [i6oS— 

when he rides on a sun-beam, is material; Satan is material 
when he is afraid of the prowess of Adam. 

The confusion of spirit and matter which pervades the 
whole narration of the war of heaven fills it with incon- 
gruity : and the book, in which it is related, is, I beHeve, the 
favourite of children, and gradually neglected as knowledge 
is increased. 

After the operation of immaterial agents, which cannot be 
explained, may be considered that of allegorical persons, 
which have no real existence. To exalt causes into agents, 
to invest abstract ideas with form, and animate them with 
activity, has always been the right of poetry. But such airy 
beings are, for the most part, suffered only to do their natural 
office, and retire. Thus Fame tells a tale, and Victory hovers 
over a general, or perches on a standard ; but Fame and 
Victory can do no more. To give them any real employ- 
ment, or ascribe to them any material agency, is to make 
them allegorical no longer, but to shock the mind by ascribing 
effects to non-entity. In the Prometheus of ^schylus, we see 
Violence and Strength, and in the Alcestis of Euripides, we see 
Death, brought upon the stage, all as active persons of the 
drama ; but no precedents can justify absurdity. 

Milton's allegory of Sin and Death is undoubtedly faulty. 
Sin is indeed the mother of Death, and may be allowed to be 
the portress of hell ; but when they stop the journey of Satan, 
a journey described as real, and when Death offers him battle, 
the allegory is broken. That Sin and Death should have 
shewn the way to hell, might have been allowed; but 
they cannot facilitate the passage by building a bridge, 
because the difficulty of Satan's passage is described as real 
and sensible, and the bridge ought to be only figurative. The 
' hell assigned to the rebellious spirits is described as not less 
local than the residence of man. It is placed in some distant 
part of space, separated from the regions of harmony and 
order by a chaotick waste and an unoccupied vacuity; but 

1674] MILTON. 115 

Sin and Death worked up a male of aggravated soil, cemented 
with asphaltus ; a work too bulky for ideal architects. 

This unskilful allegory appears to me one of the greatest 
faults of the poem ; and to this there was no temptation, but 
the author's opinion of its beauty. 

To the conduct of the narrative some objections may be 
made. Satan is with great expectation brought before Gabriel 
in Paradise, and is suffered to go away unmolested. The 
creation of man is represented as the consequence of the 
vacuity left in heaven by the expulsion of the rebels ; yet 
Satan mentions it as a report rife in heaven before his de- 

To find sentiments for the state of innocence, was very 
difficult ; and something of anticipation perhaps is now and 
then discovered. Adam's discourse of dreams "seems not to be 
the speculation of a new-created being. I know not whether 
his answer to the angel's reproof for curiosity does not want 
something of propriety : it is the speech of a man acquainted 
with many other men. Some philosophical notions, especially 
when the philosophy is false, might have been better omitted. 
The angel, in a comparison, speaks of timorous deer, before 
deer were yet timorous, and before Adam could understand 
the comparison. 

Dryden remarks, that Milton has some flats among his 
elevations. This is only to say, that all the parts are not 
equal. In every work, one part must be for the sake of 
others ; a palace must have passages ; a poem must have 
transitions. It is no more, to be required that wit should always 
be blazing, than that the sun should always stand at noon. 
In a great work there is a vicissitude of luminous and opaque 
parts, as there is in the world a succession of day and night. 
Milton, when he has expatiated in the sky, may be allowed 
sometimes to revisit earth ; for what other author ever soared 
so high, or sustained his flight §0 long ? 

Milton, being well versed in the Italian poets, appears to 

I 2 

ii6 MILTON. [1608— 

have borrowed often from them ; and, as every man catches 
something from his companions, his desire of imitating 
Ariosto's levity has disgraced his work with the Paradise of 
Fools ; a fiction not in itself ill-imagined, but too ludicrous 
for its place. 

His play on words, in which he delights too often ; his 
equivocations, which Bentley endeavours to defend by the 
example of the ancients ; his unnecessary and ungraceful use 
of terms of art ; it is not necessary to mention, because they 
are easily remarked, and generally censured, and at last bear 
so little proportion to the whole, that they scarcely deserve 
the attention of a critick. 

Such are the faults of that wonderful performance Paradise 
Lost ; which he who can put in balance with its beauties must 
be considered not as nice but as dull, as less to be censured 
for want of candour, than pitied for want of sensibility. 

Of Paradise Regained, the general judgement seems now to 
be right, that it is in many parts elegant, and everywhere 
instructive. It was not to be supposed that the writer of 
Paradise Lost could ever write without great effusions of 
fancy, and exalted precepts of wisdom. The basis of Para' 
dise Regained is narrow ; a dialogue without action can never 
please like an union of the narrative and dramatick powers. 
Had this poem been written not by Milton, but by some 
imitator, it would have claimed and received universal praise. 

If Paradise Regained has been too much depreciated, 
Sampson Agonistes has in requital been too much admired. 
It could only be by long prejudice, and the bigotry of learning, 
that Milton could prefer the ancient tragedies, with their 
encumbrance of a chorus, to the exhibitions of the French 
and English stages; and it is only by a blind confidence in 
the reputation of Milton, that a drama can be praised in 
which the intermediate parts have neither cause nor con- 
sequence, neither hasten nor retard the catastrophe. 

In this tragedy are however many particular beauties, many 

1674] MILTON. 117 

just sentiments and striking lines ; but it wants that power of 
attracting the attention which a well-connected plan produces. 

Milton would not have excelled in dramatick writing ; he \ 
knew human nature only in the gross, and had never studied j 
the shades of character, nor the combinations of concurring, / 
or the perplexity of contending passions. He had read much, 
and knew what books could teach ; but had mingled little in 
the world, and was deficient in the knowledge which experience 
must confer. 

Through all his greater works there prevails an uniform 
peculiarity of Diction, a mode and cast of expression which 
bears little resemblance to that of any former writer, and which 
is so far removed from common use, that an unlearned reader, 
when he first opens his book, finds himself surprised by a new 

This novelty has been, by those who can find nothing wrong 
in Milton, imputed to his laborious endeavours after words • 
suitable to the grandeur of his ideas. Our language, says ' 
Addison, sunk under him. But the truth is, that, both in prose |ii 
and verse, he had formed his style by a perverse and pedantick 
principle. He was desirous to use English words with a 
foreign idiom. This in all his prose is discovered and con- 
demned ; for there judgement operates freely, neither softened 
by the beauty, nor awed by the dignity of his thoughts ; but 
such is the power of his poetry, that his call is obeyed without 
resistance, the reader feels himself in captivity to a higher and 
a nobler mind, and criticism sinks in admiration. 

Milton's style was not modified by his subject: what is 
shewn with greater extent in Paradise Lost, may be found in 
Comus. One source of his peculiarity was his familiarity with 
the Tuscan poets : the disposition of his words is, I think, 
frequently Italian ; perhaps sometimes combined with other 
tongues. Of him, at last, may be said what Jonson says of 
Spenser, that he wrote no language, but has formed what Butler 
calls a Babylonish Dialect, in itself harsh and barbarous, but 

Ii8 MILTON. [1608— 

made by exalted genius, and extensive learning, the vehicle of 
so much instruction and so much pleasure, that, like other 
lovers, we find grace in its deformity. 

Whatever be the faults of his diction, he cannot want the 
praise of copiousness and variety ; he was master of his 
language in its full extent; and has selected the melodious 
words with such diligence, that from his book alone the Art 
of English Poetry might be learned. 

After his diction, something must be said of his versification. 
The measure, he says, is the English heroick verse without rhyme. 
Of this mode he had many examples among the Italians, 
and some in his own country. The Earl of Surrey is said to 
have translated one of Virgil's books without rhyme ; and, 
besides our tragedies, a few short poems had appeared in 
blank verse ; particularly one tending to reconcile the nation 
to Raleigh's wild attempt upon Guiana, and probably written 
by Raleigh himself. These petty performances cannot be 
supposed to have much influenced Milton, who more probably 
took his hint from Trisino's Italia Liberata ; and, finding blank 
verse easier than rhyme, was desirous of persuading himself 
that it is better. 

Rhyme, he says, and says truly, is tw necessary adjunct of true 
poetry. But perhaps, of poetry as a mental operation, metre 
or musick is no necessary adjunct : it is however by the musick 
of metre that poetry has been discriminated in. all languages; 
and in languages melodiously constructed with a due propor- 
r tioh of long and short syllables, metre is sufficient. But one 
' language cannot communicate its rules to another : where 
metre is scanty and imperfect, some help is necessary. The 
musick of the English heroick line strikes the ear so faintly 
Y that it is easily lost, unless all the syllables of every line co- 
operate together : this co-operation can be only obtained by 
the preservation of every verse unmingled with another, as a 
distinct system of sounds ; and this distinctness is obtained and 
preserved by the artifice of rhyme. The variety of pauses, 

1674] MILTON. 119 

SO much boasted by the lovers of blank verse, changes the 
measures of an English poet to the periods of a declaimer ; 
and there are only a few skilful and happy readers of Milton, 
who enable their audience to perceive where the' lines end or 
begin. Blank verse, said an ingenious critick, seems to be verse 
only to the eye. 

Poetry may subsist without rhyme, but English J^^^^^ 
not often ple ase ; nor can rhyme ever be safely spared but 
where the subject is able to support itself Blank verse makes 
some approach to that which is called the lapidary style; has 
neither the easiness of prose, nor the melody of numbers, and 
therefore tires by long^^tmuance. Of the Italian writers 
without rhyme, whom Milton alleges as precedents, not one 
is popular ; what reason could urge in its defence, has been 
confuted by the ear. 

But, whatever be the advantage of rhyme, I cannot prevail 
on myself to wish that Milton had been a rhymer ; for-J 
cannot wish his work to be other than it is ; yet, Uke other 
heroes, he^isjtobe admired rather_than imitated. He that 
thinks himself capable of astonishing, may write blank verse ; 
but those that hope only to please, must condescend to 

The highest_grai§£_u£-g£nius is original invention. Milton 
cannot be said to have contrived The structure of an epick 
poem, and therefore owes reverence to that vigour and ampli- 
tude of mind to whicTi all generations must be indebted for 
the art of poetical narration, for the texture of the fable, the 
variation of incidents, the interposition of dialogue, and all 
the stratagems that surprise and enchain attention. But, ot 
all the borr owers from Homer, Milton is perhaps the least 
indebted. He was naturally a thinker for himself, confident 
of his own abilities, and disdainful of help or hindrance : he 
did not refuse admission to the thoughts or images of his 
predecessors, but he did not seek them. From his contempo- 
raries he' neither courted nor received support ; there is in his 

I20 MILTON. [1608— 1674 

writings nothing by which the pride of other authors might 
be gratified, or favour gained; no exchange of praise, nor 
solicitation of support. His great works were performed 
under discountenance, and in blindness, but difficulties van- 
ished at his touch ; he was born for whatever is arduous ; >and 
his work is not the greatest of heroick poems, only because 
it is not the first. 

D R Y D E N. 

163I— JJ**T I' 

Of the great poet whose life I am about to delineate, the 
curiosity which his reputation must excite will require a 
display more ample than can now be given. His contem- 
poraries, however they reverenced his genius, left his life 
unwritten ; and nothing therefore can be known beyond what 
casual mention and uncertain -tradition have supplied. 

John Dryden was bom August 9, 1631, at Aldwincle near 
Oundle, the son of Erasmus Dryden of Tichmersh ; who was 
the third son of Sir Erasmus Dryden, Baronet, of Canons 
Ashby. All these places are in Northamptonshire; but the 
original stock of the family was in the county of Huntingdon. 

He is repoirted by his last biographer, Derrick, to have 
inherited from his father an estate of two hundred a year, 
and to have been bred, as was said, an Anabaptist. For either 
of these particulars no authority is given. Such a fortune 
ought to have secured him from that poverty which seems 
always to have oppressed him ; or if he had wasted it, to have 
made him ashamed of publishing his necessities. But though 
he had many enemies, who undoubtedly examined his life with 
a scrutiny sufficiently malicious, I do not remember that he is 
ever charged with waste of his patrimony. He was indeed 

122 DRYDEN. [1631— 

sometimes reproached for his first religion. I am therefore 
indined to believe that Derrick's intelligence was partly true, 
and partly erroneous. 

From Westminster School, where he was instructed as one 
of the king's scholars by Dr. Busby, whom he long after 
continued to reverence, he was in 1 650 elected to one of the 
Westminster scholarships at Cambridge. 

Of his school performances has appeared only a poem on 
the death of Lord Hastings, composed with great ambition of 
such conceits as, notwithstanding the reformation begun by 
Waller and Denham, the example of Cowle"y still kept in 
reputation. Lord Hastings died of the small-pox, and his poet 
has made of the pustules first rosebuds, and then gems ; at 
last exalts them into stars ; and says. 

No comet need foretell his change drew on, 
Whose corps might seem a constellation. ' 

At the university he does not appear to have been eager of 
poetical distinction, or to have lavished his early wit either 
on fictitious subjects or public occasions. He probably con- 
sidered that he who purposed to be an author, ought first to 
be a student. He obtained, whatever was the reason, no 
fellowship in the College. Why he was excluded cannot now 
be known, and it is vain to guess ; had he thought himself 
injured, he knew how to complain. In the Life of Plutarch 
he mentions his education in the College with gratitude ; but 
in a prologue at Oxford, he has these lines : 

Oxford to him a dearer name shall be 
Than his own mother-university ; 
Thebes did his rude unknowing youth engage ; 
He chooses Athens in his riper age. 

It was not till the death of Cromwell, in 1658, that he 
became a pubhc candidate for fame, by publishing Heroic 
Stanzas on the late Lord Protector; which, compared with 

l7ot] DRYDEN. 123 

the verses of Sprat and Waller on the same occasion, were 
sufficient to raise great exp ectations of the rising poet. 

When the king was restored, Dryden, like the other 
panegpists of usurpation, changed his opinion, or his pro- 
fession, and published Astrea Redux, a poem on the happy 
restoration and return of his most sacred Majesty King 
Charles the Second. 

The reproach of inconstancy was, on this occasion, shared 
with such numbers, that it produced neither hatred nor dis- 
grace ; if he changed, he changed with the ' nation. It was, 
however, not totally forgotten when his reputation raised him 

The same year he praised the new king in a second poem 
on his restoration. In the Astrea was the line, 

An horrid stillness first includes the ear, 
And in that silence we a tempest fear ; 

for which he was persecuted with perpetual ridicule, perhaps 
with more than was deserved. Silence is indeed mere priva- 
tion; and, so considered, cannot invade; but privation likewise 
certainly is darkness, and probably cold; yet poetry has never 
been refused the right of ascribing effects or agency to them 
as to positive powers. No man scruples to say that darkness 
hinders him from his work ; or that cold has killed the plants. 
Death is also privation, yet who has made any difficulty of 
assigning to Death a dart and the power of striking ? 

In settling the order of his works, there is some difficulty ; 
for, even when they are important enough to be formally 
offered to a patron, he does not commonly date his dedication; 
the time of writing and publishing is not always the same ; 
nor can the first editions be easily found, if even from them 
could be obtained the necessary information. 

The time at which his first play was exhibited is not cer- 
tainly known, because it was not printed till it was some years 
afterwards altered and revived; but since the plays are said, 

124 DRYDEN. " [1631— 

to be printed in the order in which they were written, from the 
dates of some, those of others may be inferred ; and thus it 
may be collected that in 1663, in the thirty-second year of his 
life, he commenced a writer for the stage; compelled un- 
doubtedly by necessity, for he appears never to have loved 
that exercise of his genius, or to have much pleased himself 
with his own dramas. 

Of the stage, when he had once invaded it, he kept posses- 
sion for many years ; not indeed without the competition of 
rivals who sometimes prevailed, or the censure of criticks, 
which was often poignant and often just ; but with such a 
degree of reputation as made him at least secure of being 
heard, whatever might be the final determination of the public. 

His first piece was a comedy called th e Wild Gallant. He 
began with no happy auguries ; for his performance was so much 
disapproved, that he was compelled to recall it, and change 
it from its imperfect state to the form in which it now appears, 
and which is yet sufficiently defective to vindicate the criticks. 

I wish that there were no necessity of following the progress 
of his theatrical fame, or tracing the meanders of his mind 
through the whole series of his draniatick performances ; it 
will be fit however to enumerate them, and to take especial 
notice of those that are distinguished by any peculiarity intrin- 
sick or concomitant; for the composition and fate of eight and 
twenty dramas include too much of a poetical life to be omitted. 

In 1664 he published the RimlLadies, which he dedicated 
to the Earl of Orrery, a man of high reputation both as a 
writer and a statesman. In this play he made his essay of 
dramatick rhyme, which he defends in his dedication, with 
sufficient certainty of a favourable hearing; for Orrery was 
himself a writer of rhyming tragedies. 

He then joined with Sir Robert Howard in the Indian 
Queen, a tragedy in rhyme. The parts which either of them 
wrote are not distinguished. 

The Indian Emperor was published in 1667. It is a tragedy 

I70I] DRYDEN. 125 

in rhyme, intended for a sequel to Howard's Indian Queen. 
Of this connection notice was given to the audience by printed 
bills distributed at the door j an expedient supposed to be ridi- 
culed in the Rehearsal, when Bayes tells how many reams he has 
printed, to instil into the audience some conception of his plot. 

In this play is the description of Night, which Rymer has 
made famous by preferring it to those of all other poets. 

The practice of making tragedies in rhyme was introduced 
soon after the Restoration, as it seems by the Earl of Orrery, 
in compliance with the opinion of Charles the Second, who 
had formed his taste by the French theatre ; and Dryden, who 
wrote, and made no difficulty of declaring that he wrote, only 
to please, and who perhaps knew that by his dexterity of 
versification he was more likely to excel others in rhyme than 
without it, very readily adopted his master's preference. He 
therefore made rhyming tragedies, till, by the prevalence of 
manifest propriety, he seems to have grown ashamed of making 
them any longer. 

To this play is prefixed a very vehement defence of dra- 
matick rhyme, in confutation of the preface to the Duke of 
Lerma, in which Sir Robert Howard had censured it 

In 1667 he published Annus Mirabili s. the Year of Wonders, 
which may be esteemed one of his most elaborate works. 

It is addressed to Sir Robert Howard by a letter, which is 
not properly a dedication; and, writing to a poet, he has 
interspersed many critical observations, of which some are 
common, and some perhaps ventured without much considera- 
tion. He began, even now, to exercise the domination of 
conscious genius, by recommending his own performance: 
" I am satisfied that as the Prince and General [Rupert and 
Monk] are incomparably the best subjects I ever had, so 
what I have written on them is much better than what I have 
performed on any other. As I have endeavoured to adorn 
my poem with noble thoughts, so much more to express those 
thoughts with elocution." 

126 DRYDEN. [1631— 

It is written in quatrains, or heroick stanzas of four lines ; a 

f measure which he had learned from the Gondibert of Davenant, 

I and which he then thought the most majestick that the 

'.English language affords. Of this stanza he mentions the 

^encumbrances, en creased as they were by the exactness which 

;the age required. It was, throughout his life, very much his 

y custom to recommend his works, by representation of the 

difficulties that he had encountered, without appearing to have 

sufficiently considered, that where there is no difficulty there 

is no praise. 

There seems to be in the conduct of Sir Robert Howard 
and Dryden towards each other, something that is not now 
easily to be explained. Dryden, in his dedication to the Earl 
of Orrery, had defended dramatick .Thyme ; and Howard, in 
the preface to a collection of plays, had censured his opinion. 
Dryden vindicated himself in his Dial9gu«^-on -Dramatick 
Poetry ; Howard, in his Preface to the Duke of Lerma, ani- 
madverted on the Vindication ; and Dryden, in a Preface to 
the Indian Emperor, replied to the Animadversions with great 
asperity, and almost with contumely. The dedication to this 
play is dated the year in which the Annus Mirabilis was 
published. Here appears a strange inconsistency ; but Lang- 
baine affords some help, by relating that the answer to Howard 
was not published in the first edition of the play, but was 
added when it was afterwards reprinted ; and as the Duke of 
Lerma did not appear till 1668, the same year in which the 
Dialogue was published, there was time enough for enmity to 
grow up between authors, who, writing both for the theatre, 
were naturally rivals. 

He was now so much distinguished, that in 1668 he suc- 
ceeded Sir William Davenant as p.oet-laureat. The salary of 
the laureat had been raised in favour of Jonson, by Charles 
the First, from an hundred marks to one hundred pounds a 
year and a tierce of wine ; a revenue in those days not 
inadequate to the conveniencies of life. 

1701] DRYDEN. 127 

The same year he published his Essay on Dramatick Poetry, 

an elegant and instructive dialogue ; mwhichwe^lire told by 
Prior, that the principal character is meant to represent the 
duke of Dorset. This work seems to have given Addison a 
model for his Dialogues upon Medals. 

Secret-ias£, or the Maiden Queen, is a tragi-comedy. In 
the preface he discusses a curious question, whether a poet 
can judge well of his own productions : and determines very 
justly, that, of the plan and disposition, and all that can be 
reduced to principles of science, the author may depend upon 
his own opinion ; but that, in those parts where fancy pre- 
dominates, self-love may easily deceive. He might have 
observed, that what is good only because it pleases cannot 
be pronounced good till it has been found to please. 

Sir Mjiitin^Marall is a comedy, published without preface 
or dedication, and at first without the name of the author. 
Langbaine charges it, like most of the rest, with plagiarism ; 
and observes that the song is translated from Voiture, allowing 
however that both the sense and measure are exactly observed. 

The Tempest is an alteration of Shakspeare's play, made 
by Dryden ,in conjunction with Davenant, "whom," says he, 
" I found of so quick a fancy, that nothing was proposed to 
him in which he could not suddenly produce a thought ex- 
tremely pleasant and surprising ; and those first thoughts of 
his, contrary to. the Latin proverb, were not always the least 
happy; and as his fancy was quick, so likewise were the 
products of it remote and new. He borrowed not of any 
other, and his imaginations were such as could not easily enter 
into any other man." 

The effect produced by the conjunction of these two 
powerful minds was, that to Shakspeare's monster Caliban is • 
added a sister-monster Sicorax; and a woman, who, in the 
original play, had never seen a man, is in this brought 
acquainted with a man that had never seen a woman. 

About this time, in 1673, Dryden seems to have had his quiet 

128 DRYDEN. [1631-^ 

much disturbed by the success of the Empress ofMoroc co. 
a tragedy written in rhyme by E lkanah Se ttle; which was so 
much applauded, as to make him think his supremacy of reputa- 
tion in some danger. Settle had not only been prosperous on 
the stage, but, in the confidence of success, had published his 
play, with sculptures and a preface of defiance. Here was 
one offence added to another; and, for the last blast of 
inflammation, it was acted at Whitehall by the court-ladies. 

Dryden could not now repress these emotions, which he 
called indignation, and others jealousy; but wrote upon the 
play and the dedication such criticism as malignant impatience 
could pour out in haste. 

Of Settle he gives this character. " He's an animal of a 
most deplored understanding, without conversation. His 
being is in a twilight of sense, and some glimmering of 
thought, which he can never fashion into wit or English. His 
style is boisterous and rough-hewn, his rhyme incorrigibly 
lewd, and his numbers perpetually harsh and ill-sounding. 
The little talent which he has, is fancy. He sometimes 
labours with a thought; but, with the pudder he makes to 
bring it into the world, 'tis commonly still-bom ; so that, for 
want of learning and elocution, he will never be able to 
express any thing either naturally or justly ! " 

This is not very decent ; yet this is one of the pages in 
which criticism prevails most over brutal fury. He proceeds : 
" He has a heavy hand at fools, and a great feUcity in writing 
nonsense for them. Fools they will be in spite of him. His 
King, his two Empresses, his villain, and his sub-villain, nay 
his hero, have all a certain natural cast of the father — their 
folly was born and bred in them, and something of the 
Elkanah will be visible." 

This is Dryden's general declamation ; I will not withhold 
from the reader a particular remark. Having gone through 
the first act, he says, "To conclude this act vvith the most 
rumbling piece of nonsense spoken yet, 


701] DRYDEN. 129 

To flatteriiig lightning our feign'd smiles conform, 1 
Which back'd with thunder do but gild a storm. 

".onform-a smile to lightning, make a smile imitate lightning, and 
attering lightning : lightning sure is a threatening thing. And 
lis lightning must gild a storm. Now if I must conform my 
miles to lightning, then my smiles must gild a storm too : to 
'.Id with smiles is a new invention of gilding. And gild a 
term by being backed with thunder. Thunder is part of the 
torm ; so one part of the storm must help to gild another 
art, and help by backing ; as if a man would gild a thing the 
etter for being backed, or having a load upon his back. So 
bat here is gilding by conforming, smiling, lightning, backing, 
nd thundering. The whole is as if I should say thus : I will 
aake my counterfeit smiles look like a flattering stone-horse, 
irhich, being backed with a trooper, does but gild the battle. 

am mistaken if nonsense is not here pretty thick sown. Sure 
he poet writ these two lines aboard some smack in a storm, 
nd, being sea-sick, spewed up a good lump of clotted non- 
ense at once." 

Here is perhaps a sufficient specimen ; but as the pamphlet, 
hough Dryden's, has never been thought worthy of republica- 
ion, and is not easily to be found, it may gratify curiosity to 
[uote it more largely. 

" Whene'er she bleeds. 
He no severer a damnation needs 
That dares pronounce the sentence of her death, 
Than the infection that attends that breath. 

That attends that breath. — ^The poet is at breath again ; 
^reath can never 'scape him ; and here he brings in a breath 
hat must be infectious with pronouncing a sentence ; and this 
entence is not to be pronounced till the condemned party 
'leeds; that is, she must be executed iirst, and sentenced after 
.nd the proiuiuncing of this sentence will be infectious; that is, 
ithers will catch the disease of that sentence, and this infect- 
ng of others will torment a man's self. The whole is thus : 



DRYDEK. [1631— 

when she bleeds, thou needest no greater hell or torment to thyself, 
than infecting of others by pronouncing a sentence upon her. 
What hodge-podge does he make here! Never was Dutch 
grout such clogging, thick, indigestible stuff. But this is but 
a taste to stay the stomach ; we shall have a more plentiful 
mess presently. 

" Now to dish up the poet's broth, that I promised : 

For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd, 

Of Nature's grosser burden we're discharg'd. 

Then gently, as a happy Ifcver's sigh, 

Like wandering meteors through the air we'll fly, 

And in our airy walk, as subtle guests. 

We'll steal into our cruel fathers' breasts. 

There read their souls, and track each passion's sphere : 

See how Revenge moves there, Ambition here. 

And in their orbs view the dark characters 

Of sieges, ruins, murders, blood and wars. 

We'll blot out all those hideous draughts, and write 

Pure and white forms ; then with a radiant light 

Their breasts encircle, till their passions be 

Gentle as nature in its infancy : 

Till soften'd by our charms their furies cease, 

And their revenge resolves into a peace. 

Thus by our death their quarrel ends. 

Whom living we made foes, dead we'll make friends. 

If this be not a very liberal mess, I will refer myself to the 
stomach of any moderate guest. And a rare mess it is, far 
excelling any Westminster white-broth. It is a kind of gibblet 
porridge, made of the gibblets of a couple of young geese, 
s todg ed full of meteors, orbs, spheres, track, hideous draughts, 
dark characters, white forms, and radiant lights, designed not 
only to please appetite, and indulge luxury; but it is also 
physical, being an approved medicine to purge choler : for it 
is propounded by Morena, as a receipt to cure their fathers 
of their choleric humours : and were it written in characters 
as barbarous as the words, might very well pass for a doctor's 
bill. To conclude, it is porridge, 'tis a receipt, 'tis a pig with 
a pudding in the belly, 'tis I know not what ; for, certainly, 

1 701] DRYDEN. 131 

never any one that pretended to write sense, had the impu- 
dence before to put suph stuff as this into the mouths of those 
that were to speak it before an audience, whom he did not 
take to be all fools ; and after that to print it too, and expose 
it to the examination of the world. But let us see, what we 
can make of this stuff : 

For when we're dead, and our freed souls enlarg'd — 

Here he tells us what it is to be dead; it is to have our 
freed souls set free. Now if to have a soul set free is to be 
dead, then to have, a freed soul set free, is to have a dead 
man die. 

Then gentle, as a happy lover's sigh — 

They two like one sigh, and that one sigh like two wandering 

■ — shall flie through the air- 
That is, they shall mount above hke falling stars, or else they 
shall skip like two Jacks' with lanthoms,. or Will with a wisp, 
and Madge with a candle. 

" And in their airy walk steal into their cruel father^ breasts, 
like subtle guests. — So that their fathers breasts must be in an 
airy walk, an airy walk of a flier. And there they will read 
their soul's, and track the spheres of their passions. That is, 
these walking fliers, Jack with a lanthorn, &c., will put on his 
spectacles, and fall a reading souls, and put on his pumps and 
fall a tracking of spheres ; so that he will read and run, walk 
and fly at the same time ! Oh ! Nimble Jack. Then he will 
see, how revenge here, how ambition there. — The birds will hop 
about. And then view the dark characters of sieges, ruins, ' 
murders, blood, and wars, in their orbs: Track the characters 
to their forms ! Oh ! rare sport for Jack. Never was place 
so full of game as these breasts ! You cannot stir but flush a 
sphere, start a character, or unkennel an orb ! " 

K 2 

132 : DRYDEN. [1631— 

Settle's is said to have been the first play embellished with 
sculptures ; those ornaments seem to have given poor Dryden 
great disturbance. He tries however to ease his pain, by 
venting his malice in a parody. 

"The poet has not only been so impudent to expose all 
this stuff, but so arrogant to defend it with an epistle ; like a 
saucy booth-keeper, that, when he had put a cheat upon the 
people, would wrangle and fight with any that would not like 
it, or would offer to discover it ; for which arrogance our poet 
receives this correction ; and to jerk him a little the sharper, I 
will not transpose his verse, but by the help of his own words 
trans-non-sense sense, that, by my stufi) people may judge the 
better what his is : 

Great Boy, thy tragedy and sculptures done 
From press, and plates in fleets do homeward come : 
And in ridiculous and humble pride, 
Their course in ballad-singers' baskets guide, 
Whose greasy twigs do all new beauties take. 
From the gay shows thy dainty sculptures make. 
Thy lines a mess of rhiming nonsense yield, 
A senseless tale, with flattering fustian fill'd. 
No grain of sense does in one line appear. 
Thy words big bulks of boisterous bombast bear. 
With noise they move, and from players' mouths rebound, 
When their tongues dance to thy words' empty sound. 
' By thee inspir'd the rumbling verses roll. 
As if that rhyme and bombast lent a soul : 
And with that soul they seem taught duty too, 
To huffing words does humble nonsense bow. 
As if it would thy worthless worth enhance, 
To th' lowest rank of fops thy praise advance ; 
To whom, by instinct, all thy stuff is dear ; 
Their loud claps echo to the theatre. 
From breaths of fools thy commendation spreads, 
Fame sings thy praise with mouths of loggerheads. 
With noise and laughing each thy fustian greets, 
'Tis clapt by quires of empty-headed cits, 
Who have their tribute sent, and homage given, 
As men in whispers send loud noise to heaven. 

" Thus I have daubed him with his own puddle : and now 
we are come from a-board his dancing, masking, rebounding, 

I70I] DRYDEN. 133 

breathing fleet ; and as if we had landed at Gotham, we meet 
nothing but fools and nonsense. " 

Such was the criticism to which the genius of Dryden could 
be reduced, between rage and terrour ; rage with Uttle provo- 
cation, and terrour with little danger. To see the highest 
minds thus levelled with the meanest, may produce some 
solace to the consciousness of weakness, and some mortifica- 
tion to the pride of wisdom. But let it be remembered, that 
minds are not levelled in their powers but when they are first 
levelled in their desires. Dryden and Settle had both placed 
their happiness in the claps of multitudes. 

The Mq^_Astro]oger, a comedy, is dedicated to the illustri- 
ous Duke of Newcastle, whom he courts by adding to his 
praises those of his lady, not only as a lover but a partner of 
his studies. It is unpleasing to think how many names, once 
celebrated, are since forgotten. Of Newcastle's wo'rks nothing 
is now known but his treatise on horsemanship. 

The Preface seems very elaborately written, and contains 
many just remarks on the Fathers of the English drama. 
Shakspeare's plots, he says, are in the hundred novels of 
Cinthio ; those of Beaumont and Fletcher in Spanish Stories ; 
f^ft_Jonson jM»Jy^ made them for himself. His criticisms upon 
tragedy, comedy, and farce, are judicious and profound. He 
endeavours to defend the immorality of some of his comedies 
by the example of former writers ; which is only to say, that 
he was not the first nor perhaps the greatest offender. Against 
those that accused him of plagiarism, he alleges a favourable 
expression of the king : " He only desired that they, who 
accuse me of thefts, would steal him plays like mine ; " and 
then relates how much labour he spends in fitting for the 
English stage what he borrows from others. 

Tyrannick Love, or the Virgin Martyr, was another tragedy 
in rhyme, conspicuous for many passages of strength and 
elegance, and many of empty noise and ridiculous turbulence. 
The rants of Maximin have been always the sport of criticism ; 


DRYDEN. [1631- 

and were at length, if his own confession may be trusted, the 
shame of the writer. 

Of this play he takes care to let the reader know, that it was 
contrived and written in seven weeks. Want of time was often 
his excuse, or perhaps shortness of time was his private boast 
in the form of an apology. 

It was written before the Conquest of Granada, but published 
after it. The design is to recommend piety. " I considered 
that pleasure was not the only end of poesy, and that even the 
instructions of morality were not so wholly the business of a 
poet, as that precepts and examples of piety were to be 
omitted ; for to leave that employment altogether to the clergy, 
were to forget that religion was first taught in verse, which the 
laziness or dulness of succeeding priesthood turned afterwards 
into prose.'' Thus foolishly could Dryden write, rather than 
not show his malice to the parsons. 

The two parts of the Conquestjof Granada are written with 
a seeming determination to glut the public with dramatick 
wonders ; to exhibit in its highest elevation a theatrical meteor 
of incredible love and impossible valour, and to leave no room 
\ for a wilder flight to the extravagance of posterity. All the 
j" rays of romantick heat, whether amorous . or warlike, glow in 
Almanzor by a kind of concentration. He is above all laws; 
he is exempt from all restraints ; he ranges the world at will, 
and governs wherever he appears. He fights without enquiring 
the cause, and loves in spite of the obligations of justice, of 
rejection by his mistress, and of prohibition from the dead. 
Yet the scenes are, for the most part, delightful ; they exhibit 
a kind of illustrious depravity, and majestick madness : such as, 
if it is sometimes despised, is often reverenced, and in which 
^he ridiculous is mingled with the astonishing. 

In the Epilogue to the second part of the Conquest of 
Granada, Dryden indulges his favourite pleasure of discrediting 
his predecessors ; and this Epilogue he has defended by a long 
postscript. He had promised a second dialogue, in which he 

1701] DRYDEN. 13S 

should more fully treat of the virtues and faults of the English 
poets, who have written in the dramatick, epick, or lyriek way. 
This promise was never formally performed ; but, with respect 
to the dramatick writers, he has given us in his prefaces, and in 
this postscript, something equivalent ; but his purpose being to 
exalt himself by the comparison, he shews faults distinctly, and 
only praises excellence in general terms. 

A play thus written, in professed defiance of probability, 
naturally drew down upon itself the vultures of the theatre. One 
of the criticks that attacked it was Marrin Clifford, to whom 
Sprat addressed the Life of Cowley, with such veneration of 
his critical powers as might naturally excite great expectations 
of instruction from his remarks. But let honest credulity 
beware of receiving characters from contemporary writers. 
Clififord's remarks, by the (avour of Dr. Percy, were at last,, 
obtained; and, that no man may ever want them more, I will 
extract enough to satisfy all reasonable desire. 

In the first Letter his observation is only general : " You do 
live,'' says he, " in as much ignorance and darkness as you did 
in the womb : your writings are like a Jack-of-all-trades' shop ; 
they have a variety, but nothing of value ; and if thou art not 
the dullest plant-animal that ever the earth produced, all that 
I have conversed with are strangely mistaken in thee." 

In the second, he tells him that Almanzor is not more copied 
from Achilles than from Ancient Pistol. " But I am," says he, 
" strangely mistaken if I have not seen this very Almanzor of 
yours in some disguise about this town, and passing under 
another name. Pr'ythee tell me true, was not this Huffcap 
once the Indian Emperor, and at another time did he not call 
himself Maximin ? Was not Lyndaraxa once called Almeira ? 
I mean under Montezuma the Indian Emperor. I protest and 
vow they are either the same, or so alike that I cannot, for my 
heart, distinguish one from the other. You are therefore a 
strange unconscionable thief; thou art not content to steal 
from others, but dost rob thy poor wretched self too." 

136 DRYDEX. [iSji— 

Now was Settle's time to take his revenge. He wrote a 
■vindication of his own lines ; and, if he is forced to yield any- 
thing, makes reprisals upon his enemy. To say that his answer 
is equal to the censure, is no high commendation. To expose 
Dryden's method of analysing his expressions, he tries the same 
experiment upon the description of the ships in the Indian 
Emperor, of which however he does not deny the excellence ; 
but intends to shew, that by studied misconstruction every- 
thing may be equally represented as ridiculous. After so much 
of Dryden's elegant animadversions, justice requires that 
something of Settle's should be exhibited. The following 
observations are therefore extracted from a quarto pamphlet of 
ninety-five pages : 

" Fate aftei" him below with pain did move, 
And victory could scarce keep pace above. 

These two lines, if he can shew me any sense or thought in, 
or anything but bombast and noise, he shall make me believe 
every word in his observations on Morocco sense. 
" In the Empress of Morocco were these lines : 

I'll travel then to some remoter sphere. 

Till I find out new worlds, and crown you there. 

On which Dryden made this remark : " / believe our learned 
author takes a sptierefor a country : the sphere of Morocco, as if 
Morocco were the globe of earth and water ; but a globe is no 
sphere neit/ier, by his IcoTe, &c. So sphere must not be sense, 
unless it reldte to a circular motion about a globe, in which 
sense the astronomers use it I would desire him to expound 
those lines in Granada : 

I'll to the turrets of the palace go, 
And add new fire to those that fight below. 
Thence, hero-like, w ith torghcs by my side, 
(Far be the omenjho') my Love I'll guide. 
NoTlike his better fortune I'll appear, \ 

With open arms, loose vail and flowing hair, > 
Just flying forward from my rowling sphere. \ 

1 701] DRYDEN. 137 

I wonder if he be so strict, how he dares make so bold with 
sphere himself, and be so critical in other men's writings. 
Fortune is fancied standing on a globe, not on a sphere, as 
he told us in the first Act. 

"Because Elkanah's similes are the most unlike things to 
■what they are compared in the world, I'll venture to start a 
simile in his Annus Mirabilis : he gives this poetical descrip- 
tion of the ship called the London : 

The goodly London in her gallant trim. 

The Phenix-daughter of the vanquisht old, 

Like a rich bride does to the ocean swim, 

And on her shadow rides in floating gold. 

Her flag aloft spread ruffling in the wind. 

And sanguine strearners seem'd the flood to fire : 

The weaver, charm'd with what his loom design'd, ~\ ' 

Goes on to sea, and knows not to retire. J 

With roomy decks, her guns of mighty strength, 

Whose low-laid mouths each mounting billow laves. 

Deep in her draught, and warlike in her length, 

She seems a sea-wasp flying on the waves. 

" What a wonderful pother is here, to make all these poetical 
beautifications of a ship ! that is, a plienix in the first stanza, 
and but a wasp in the last : nay, to make his humble com- 
parison of a wasp more ridiculous, he does not say it flies upon 
the waves as nimbly as a wasp, or the like, but it seemed a 
wasp. But our author at the writing of this was not in his 
altitudes, to compare ships to floating palaces ; a comparison 
to the purpose, was a perfection he did not arrive to, till his 
Indian Emperor's days. But perhaps his similitude has more 
in it than we imagine ; this ship had a great many guns in her, 
and they, put all together, made the sting in the wasp's tail : 
for this is all the reason I can guess, why it seem'd a wasp. 
But, because we will allow him all we can to help out, let it 
be Aphenix sea-wasp, and the rarity of such an animal may do 
much towards the heightening the fancy. 

" It had been much more to his purpose, if he had designed 

138 DRYDEN. [1631— 

to render the senseless play little, to have searched for some 
such pedantry as this : 

Two ifs scarce make one possibility. 
If justice will take all and nothing give, 
Justice, methinks, is not distributive. 
To die or kill you, is the alternative. 
Rather than take your life, I will not live. 

" Observe, how prettily our author chops logick in heroick 
verse. Three such fustian canting words as distributive, alterna- 
tive and two ifs, no man but himself would have come within 
the noise of. But he's a man of general learning, and all 
comes into his play. 

" 'Twould have done well too, if he could have met with a 
rant or t^jo, worth the observation : such as, 

Move swiftly, Sun, and fly a lover's pace. 

Leave months and weeks behind thee in thy race. 

" But surely the Sun, whether he flies a lover's or not a lover's 
pace, leaves weeks and months, nay years too, behind him in 
his race. 

" Poor Robin, or any other of the Philo-mathematicks, 
would have given him satisfaction in the point. 

If I could kill thee now, thy fate's so low 
That I must stoop, ere I can give the blow 
But mine is fixt so far above thy crown. 
That all thy men, 
Piled on thy back, can never pull it down. 

" Now where that is, Almanzor's fate is fixt, I cannot guess ; 
but wherever it is, I believe Almanzor, and think that all 
Abdalla's subjects, piled upon one another, might not pull 
down his fate so well as without piling : besides, I think 
Abdalla so wise a man, that if Almanzor had told him piling 
his men upon his back might do the feat, he would scarce bear 
such a weight, for the pleasure of the exploit ; but it is a huff, 
and let Abdalla do it if he dare. 

1 701] DRYDEN. 139 

The people like a headlong torrent go, 

And every dam they break or overflow. 

But, unoppos'd, they either lose their force, ^j 

Or wind in volumes to their former course. T 

"A very pretty allusion, contrary to all sense or reason. 
Torrents, I take it, let them wind never so much, can never 
return to their former course, unless he can suppose that 'p- 
fountains can go upwards, which is impossible : nay more, in 
the foregoing page he tells us so too. A trick of a very 
unfaithful memory. 

But can no more than fountains upward flow. 

" Which of a torrent, which signifies a rapid stream, is much 
more impossible. Besides, if he goes to quibble, and say that 
it is possible by art water may be made return, and the same 
water run twice in one and the same channel : then he quite 
confutes what he says ; for, it is by being opposed, that it runs 
into its former course : for all engines that make water so 
return, do it by compulsion and opposition. Or, if he means 
. a headlong torrent for a tide, which would be ridiculous, yet 
they do not wind in volumes, but come fore-right back (if 
their upright lies straight to their former course), and that by 
opposition of the sea-water, that drives them back again. 

" And for fancy, when he lights of any thing like it, 'tis a 
wonder if it be not borrowed. As here, for example of, I find 
this fanciful thought in his Annus Mirabilis : 

Old Father Thames raised up his reverend head 
But feared the fate of Simoeis would return ; 
Deep in his ooze he sought his sedgy bed ; 
And shrunk his waters back into his urn. 

" This is stolen from Cowley's Davideis, p. 9. 

Swift Jordan started, and strait backward fled, V) ? \j ■ J -° " 

Hiding am ongst t hick reeds his aged head. ~^ ~ ""' 

And whenTlie Spaniards their assault begm, " 

At once beat those without and those within. < .':' '^ %12:^'- " 

HO DRYDEN. [1631— 

" This , Alraanzor speaks of himself ; and sure for one man 
to conquer an army within the city, and another without the 
city, at once, is something difficult ; but this flight is pardon- 
able, to some we meet with in Granada. Osmin, speaking of 
Alraanzor : 

Who, like a tempest that outrides the wind. 

Made a just battle, ere the Ijodies join'd, j ^ 

" Pray what does this honourable person mean by a tempest 
that outrides the windt A tempest that outrides itself. To 
suppose a tempest without wind, is as bad as Supposing a man 
to walk without feet ; for if he supposes the tempest to be 
something distinct from the wind, yet as being the effect of 
wind only, to come before the cause is a little preposterous : so 
that, if he takes it one way, or if he takes it the other, those 
two ifs will scarce make one possibility^' Enough of Settle. 

Marri age Alam ode is a comedy, dedicated to the Earl of 
Rochester ; whom he acknowledges not only as the defender 
of his poetry, but the promoter of his fortune. Langbaine 
places this play in 1673. The Earl of Rochester therefore was 
the famous Wilmot, whom yet tradition always represents as 
an enemy to Dryden, and who is mentioned by him with some 
disrespect in the preface to Juvenal. 

The Ass ignati on, or Love in a Nunnery, a comedy, was 
driven off the stage, against the opinion, as the author says, 
of the best judges. It is dedicated, in a very elegant address, 
to Sir Charles Sedley ; in which he finds an opportunity for his 
usual complaint of hard treatment and unreasonable censure. 

Amboyna is a tissue of mingled dialogue in verse and prose, 
and was perhaps written in less time than the Virgin Martyr ; 
though the author thought not fit either ostentatiously or 
mournfully to tell how little labour it cost him, or at how 
short a warning he produced it. It was a temporary per- 
formance, written in the time of the Dutch war, to inflame 
the nation against their enemies ; to whom he hopes, as he 

1 701] DRYDEN. 141 

declares in his Epilogue, to make his poetry not less destructive 
than that by which Tyrtaeus of old animated the Spartans. 
This play was written in the second Dutch war in 1673. 

Troilus ^nd Cress ida, is a play altered from Shakspeare ; but 
so altered that even in Langbaine's opinion, i^ last scene in the 
third act is a masterpiece. It is introduced by a discourse on the 
grounds of criticism in tragedy ; to which I suspect that Rymer's 
book had given occasion. 

The Spanish-Eiyar is a tragi-comedy, eminent for the happy 
coincidence and coalition of the t wo plo ts. As it was written 
against the Papists, it would naturally at that time have friends 
and enemies ; and partly by the popularity which it obtained 
at first, and partly by the real power both of the serious and 
risible part, it continued long a fevourite of the publick. 

It was Dryden's opinion, at least for some time, and he 
maintains it in the dedication of this play, that the drama 
required an alternation of comick and tragick scenes, and 
that it is necessary to mitigate by alleviations of merriment 
the pressiu-e of ponderous events, and the fatigue of toilsome 
p^sions. " Whoever," says he, " cannot perform both parts, 
is but half a writer for the stage." 

The Du ke of G aise, a tragedy written in conjunction with 
Lee, as Oedigus had been before, seems to deserve notice only 
for the offence which it gave to the remnant of the Covenanters, 
and in general to the enemies of the court, who attacked him 
with great violence, and were answered by him ; though at last 
he seems to withdraw firom the conflict, by transferring the 
greater part of the blame or mait to his partner. It happened 
that a contract had been made between them, by which they 
were to join in writing a play ; and he happetied, says Dryden, 
to claim the promise just upon ihe finishing of a poem, when I 
would have been glad of a little respite. — Two thirds of it 
belonged to him; and to me o?ily the first scetie of the play, the 
whole fourth act, and the first half or somewhat more of the fifth. 

This was a play written professedly for the party of the Duke 

142 DRYDEN. [1631— 

of York, whose succession was then opposed. A parallel is 
intended between the Leaguers of France and the Covenanters 
of England ; and this intention produced the controversy. 

Albion and^ bania is a musical drama or opera, written, 
like the Duke of Guise, against the Republicans. With what 
success it was performed, I have not found. 

The State of Innocence and Fall of Man is termed by him 
an opera : it is rather a tragedy in heroick rhyme, but of which 
the personages are such as cannot decently be exhibited on the 
stage. Some such production was foreseen by Marvel, who 
writes thus to Milton : 

Or if a work so infinite be spann'd^ 

Jealous I was least some less skilful hand. 

Such as disquiet always what is well. 

And by ill-imitating would excel, 
/ Might hence presume the whole creation's day, 
' To change in scenes, and show it in a play. 

It is another of his hasty productions ; for the heat of his 
imagination raised it in a month. 

This composition is addressed to the Princess of Modena, 
then Dutchess of York, in a strain of flattery which disgraces 
genius, and which it was wonderful that any man that' knew the 
meaning of his own words, could use without self-detestation. 
It is an attempt to mingle earth and heaven, by praising human 
excellence in the language of religion. 

The preface contains an apology for heroick verse, and 
poetick licence; by which is meant not any liberty taken 
in contracting or extending words, but the use of bold fictions 
and ambitious figures. 

The reason which he gives for printing what was never 
acted, cannot be overpassed : "I was induced to it in my own 
defence, many hundred copies of it being dispersed abroad 
without my knowledge or consent, and every one gathering 
new faults, it became at length a libel against me." These 
copies as they gathered faults were apparently manuscript j 

I70I] DRYDEN. '" 143 

and he lived in an age very unlike ours, if many hundred 
copies of fourteen hundred lines were likely to be transcribed. 
An author has a right to print his own works, and needs not 
seek an apology in falsehood ; but he that could bear to write 
the dedication felt no pain in writing the preface. 

Aure ng Zebe is a tragedy founded on the actions of a great 
prince then reigning, but over nations not hkely to employ 
their criticks upon the transactions of the English stage. If 
he had known and disliked his own character, our trade was 
not in those times secure from his resentment. His country is 
at such a distance, that the manners might be safely falsified, 
and the incidents feigned ; for remoteness of place is remarked 
by Racine, to afford the same conveniencies to a poet as length 
of time. 

This play is written in rhyme ; and has the appearance of 
being the most elaborate of all the dramas. The personages 
are imperial ; but the dialogue is often domestick, and there- 
fore susceptible of sentiments accommodated to familiar 
incidents. The complaint of life is celebrated, and there 
are many other passages that may be read with pleasure. 

The play is addressed to the Earl of Mulgrave, afterwards 
Duke of Buckingham, himself, if not a poet, yet a writer of 
verses, and a critick. In this address Dryden gave the first 
hints of his intention to write an epick poem. He mentions 
his design in terras so obscure, that he seems afraid lest his 
plan should be purloined, as, he says, happened to him when 
he told it more plainly in his preface to Juvenal. " The de- 
sign,'' says he, "you know is great, the story English, and 
neither too near the present times, nor . too distant from 

All for Love, or the World well Lost, a tragedy founded upon 
the story of AnB8ny-aird Cleopatra, he tells us, is the only play 
which he wrote for himself; the rest were given to the people. 
It is by universal consent accounted the work in which he has 
admitted the fewest improprieties of style or character ; but 

144 DRYDF.N. \i(>V 

it has one fault equal to many, though rather moral than 
critical, that by admitting the romantick omnipotence of l^ove, 
he has recommended as laudable and worthy of imitation that 
conduct which, through all ages, the good have censured as 
vicious, and the bad despised as foolish. 

Of this play the prologue and the epilogue, though written 
upon the common topicks of malicious and ignorant criticism, 
and without any particular relation to the characters or 
incidents of the drama, are deservedly celebrated for their 
elegance and spriteliness. 

Limberham, or the kind Keeper, is a comedy, which, after 
the third night, was prohibited as too indecent for the stage. 
What gave offence, was in the printing, as the author says, 
altered or omitted. Dryden confesses that its indecency was 
objected to ; but Langbaine, who yet seldom favours him, 
imputes its expulsion to resentment, because it so much exposed 
the keeping part of the town, 

Oedipus is a tragedy formed by Dryden and Lee, in 
conjunction, from the works of Sophocles, Seneca, and 
Corneille. Dryden jilanned the scenes, and comjxwed tlie 
first and third acts. 

Don Sebastian is commonly esteemed either the first or 
second of his dratnatick performances. 1 1 is too long to be all 
acted, and has many characters and many incidents ; and 
though it is not without sallies of frantick dignity, and more 
noise than meaning, yet as it makes approaches to the 
possibilities of real life, and has some sentiments whicli leave 
a strong impression, it continued long to attract attention. 
Amidst the distresses of princes, and the vicissitudes of empire, 
are inserted several scenes which the writer intended for 
comick; but which, I suppose, that age did not much 
commend, and this would not endure. There are, however, 
passages of excellence universally acknowledged ; the dispute 
and the reconciliation of Dorax and Sebastian has always been 

1701] DRVDEN. 145 

This play was first acted in 1690, after Dryden had for some 
years discontinued dramatick poetry. 

Am phitryon _is a comedy derived from Plautus and Moliere. ' 
The dedication is dated October, 1690. This play seems to 
have succeeded at its first appearance ; and was, I think, long 
considered as a very diverting entertainment. 

CleomeneaJLS a tragedy, only remarkable as it occasioned an ' 
incident related in the Guardian, and allusively mentioned by 
Dryden in his preface. As he came out from the represen- 
tation, he was accosted thus by some airy stripling : Had I 
been left alone with a young beauty, I would not have spent my 
time like your Spartan. That, Sir, said Dryden, perhaps i^ 
true; but give me leave to tell you, that you are no hero. 

King Art hur is another opera. It was the last work that i 
Dryden performed for King Charles, who did not live to see it 
exhibited; and it does not seem to have been ever brought 
upon the stage. In the dedication to the Marquis of Halifax, 
there is a very elegant character of Charles, and a pleasing 
account of his latter life. When this was first brought upon 
the stage, news that the Duke of Monmouth bad landed was 
told in the theatre, upon which the company departed, and 
Arthur was exhibited no more. 

His last drama was LoveJJiiumphant, a tragi-comedy. In 
his dedication to the Earl of Salisbury, he mentions the lowness 
of fortune to which he has voluntarily reduced himself, and of 
which he has no reason to be ashamed. 

This play appeared in 1694. It is said to have been un- 
successful. The catastrophe, proceeding merely from a 
change of mind, is confessed by the author to be defective. 
Thus he began and ended his dramatick labours with ill- 

From such a number of theatrical pieces it will be supposed, 
by most readers, that he must have improved his fortune ; at 
least, that such diligence with such abilities must have set 
penury at defiance. But in Dryden's time the drama was 


146 DRYDEN. [1631— 

very far from that universal approbation which it has now 
obtained. The playhouse was abhorred by the Puritans, and 
avoided by those who desired the character of seriousness or 
decency, A grave lawyer would have debased his dignity, 
and a young trader would have impaired his credit, by appear- 
ing in those mansions of dissolute licentiousness. The profits 
of the theatre, when so many classes of the people were 
deducted from the audience, were not great; and the poet 
had for a long time but a single night. The first that had 
two nights was Southern, and the first that had three was Rowe. 
There were however, in those days, arts of improving a poet's 
profit, which Dryden forbore to practise ;. and a play therefore 
seldom produced him more than a hundred pounds, by the 
accumulated gain of the third night, the dedication, and the 

Almost every piece had a dedication, written with such 
elegance and luxuriance of praise, as neither haughtiness nor 
avarice could be imagined able to resist. But he seems to 
have made flattery too cheap. That praise is worth nothing 
of which the price is known. 

To increase the value of his copies, he often accompanied 
his work with a preface of criticism ; a kind of learning then 
almost new in the English language, and which he, who had 
considered with great accuracy the principles of writing, was 
^ble to distribute copiously as occasions arose. By these 
dissertations the publick judgement must have been much 
ipiproved ; and Swift, who conversed with Dryden, relates that 
he regretted the success of his own instructions, and found 
his readers made suddenly too skilful to be easily satisfied. 

His prologues had such reputation, that for some time a 
play was considered as less likely to be well received, if some 
of his verses did not introduce it. The price of a prologue 
was two guineas, till being asked to write one for Mr. 
Southern he demanded three ; Not, said he, young man, out of 
disrespect to you, but the players have had my goods too cheap. 

I701] DRYDEN. 147 

Though he declares, that in his own opinion his genius 
was not dramatick, he had great confidence in his own 
fertility; for he is said to have engaged, by contract, to 
furnish four plays a year. 

It is certain that in one year, 1678, he published All for 
Love, Assignation, two parts of the Conquest of Granada, 
Sir Martin Marall, and the State of Innocence, six complete 
plays; with a celerity of performance, which, though all 
Langbaine's charges of plagiarism should be allowed, shews 
such facility of composition, such readiness of language, and 
such copiousness of sentiment, as, since the time of Lopez de 
Vega, perhaps no other author has possessed. ~ 

~He did not enjoy his reputation, however great, nor his 
profits, however small, without molestation. He had criticks 
to endure, and rivals to oppose. The two most distinguished 
wits of the nobility, the Duke of Buckingham and Earl of 
Rochester, declared themselves his enemies. 

Buckingham characterised him in 1 671 by the name of 
Bayes in the Rehearsal : a farce which he is said to have 
written with the assistance of Butler the author of Hudibras, 
Martin Clifford of the Charterhouse, and Dr. Sprat, the friend 
of Cowley, then his chaplain. Dryden and his friends laughed 
at the length of time, and the number of hands employed 
upon this performance ; in which, though by some artifice of 
action it yet keeps possession of the stage, it is not possible 
now to find any thing that might not have been written with- 
out so long delay, or a confederacy so numerous. 

To adjusLihsjninute__eTCnts_ofJit^^ history, is tedious 
and troublesome ; it requires indeed no great force of under- 
derstanding, but often depends upon enquiries which there 
is no opportunity of making, or is to be fetched TromTooks 
and pamphlets not always at hand. 

The Rehearsal was played in 167 1, and yet is represented 
as ridiculing passages in the Conquest of Granada and Assigna- 
tion, which were not published till 1678, in Marriage Alamode 

L 2 


148 DRYDEN. [1631— 

published in 1673, and in Tyrannick Love of 1677. These 
contradictions shew how rashly satire is applied. 

It is said that this farce was originally intended against 
Davenan t. who in the first draught was characterised by the 
name of Bilboa. Davenant had been a soldier and an 

There is one passage in the Rehearsal still remaining, which 
seems to have related originally to Davenant. Bayes hurts 
his nose, and comes in with brown paper applied to the 
bruise ; how this affected Dryden, does not appear. D avenant' s 
nose had suffered such diminution by mishaps among the 
women, that a patch upon that part evidently denoted him. 

It is said likewise that Sir Robert Howard was once meant. 
The design was probably to ridicule the reigning poet, who- 
ever he might be. 

Much of the personal satire, to which it might owe its first 
reception, is now lost or obscured. Bayes probably imitated 
the dress , and mimicked the manner, of Dryden ; the cant 
words which are so often in his mouth may be supposed to 
have been Dryden's habitual phrases, or customary exclama- 
tions. Bayes, when he is to write, is bloode d and purged : 
this, as Lamotte relates himself to have heard, was the real 
practice of the poet. 

There were other strokes in the Rehearsal by which malice 
was gratified : the debate between Love and Honour, which 
keeps Prince Volscius in a single_boo_t, is said to have alluded 
to the misconduct of the Duke of Ormond, who lost Dublin 
to the rebels while he was toying with a mistress. 

The Earl of Rochester, to suppress the reputation of 
Dryden, took Settle into his protection, and endeavoured to 
persuade the pubUck that its approbation had been to that 
time misplaced. Settle was a while in high reputation : his 
Empress of Morocco, having first delighted the town, was 
carried in triumph to Whitehall, and played by the ladies of 
the court. Now was the poetical meteor at the highest ; the 

I73I] DRYDEN, 149 

next moment began its falL Rochester withdrew his patron- 
age ; seeming resolved, says one of his biographers, to have a 
judgement contrary to that of the town. Perhaps being unable 
to endure any reputation beyond a certain height, even when 
he had himself contributed to raise it. 

Neither criticks nor rivals did Dryden much mischief, unless 
they gained from his own temper the power of vexing him, 
which his frequent bursts of resentment give reason to suspect. 
He is always angry at some past, or afraid of some future 
censure ; but he lessens the smart of his wounds by the balm 
of his own approbation, and endeavours to repel the shafts 
of criticism by opposing a shield of adamantine confidence. 

The perpetual accusation produced against him, was that of 
plagiarism, against which he never attempted any vigorous 
defence ; for, though he was perhaps sometimes injuriously 
censured, he would by denying part of the charge have con- 
fessed the rest ; and as his adversaries had the proof in their 
own hands, he, who knew that wit had little power against 
facts, wisely left in that perplexity which generality produces 
a question which it was his interest to suppress, and which, 
unless provoked by vindication, few were likely to examine. 

Though the life of a writer, from about thirty-five to sixty- 
three, may be supposed to have been sufficiently busied by the 
composition of eight and twenty pieces for the stage, Dryden 
found room in the same space for many other mndertakings. 

But, how. much soever he wrote, he was at least once 
suspected of writing more; for in 1679 a paper of verses, 
called An Essay on Satire, was shewn about in manuscript, by 
which the Earl of Rochester, the Dutchess of Portsmouth, and 
others, were so much provoked, that, as was supposed, for 
the actors were never discovered, they procured Dryden, 
whom they suspected as the author, to be waylaid and beaten. 
This incident is mentioned by the Duke of Buckinghamshire, 
the true writer, in his Art of Poetry; where he says of 
Dryden ; 

19° DRYDEN. [1631— 

Though prais'd and beaten for another's rhymes, 
His own deserves as great applause sometimes. 

His reputation in time was such, that his name was thought 
necessary to the success of every poetical or literary per- 
formance, and therefore he was engaged to contribute some- 
thing, whatever it might be, to many publications. He pre- 
fixed the Life of Polybius to the translation of Sir Henry 
Sheers ; and those of Lucian and Plutarch to versions of their 
works by different hands. Of the English Tacitus he trans- 
lated the first book ; and, if Gordon be credited, translated it 
from the French. Such a charge can hardly be mentioned 
without some degree of indignation ; but it is not, I suppose, 
so much to be inferred that Dryden wanted the literature 
necessary to the perusal of Tacitus, as that, considering himself 
as hidden in a crowd, he had no awe of the publick; and 
writing merely for money, was contented to get it by the 
nearest way. 

In 1680, the EpistlesofOvid being translated by the poets 
of the time, among which one was the work of Dryden, and 
another of Dryden and Lord Mulgrave, it was necessary to 
introduce them by a preface; and Dryden, who on such 
occasions was regularly summoned, prefixed a discourse upon 
translation, which was then struggling for the liberty that it 
now enjoys. Why it should find any diflnculty in breaking the 
shackles of verbal interpretation, which must for ever debar it 
from elegance, it would be difficult to conjecture, were not the 
power of prejudice every day observed. The authority of 
Jonson, Sandys, and Holiday had fixed the judgement of the 
nation ; and it was not easily believed that a better way could 
be found than they had taken, though Fanshaw, Denham, 
Waller, and Cowley had tried to give examples of a different 

In 1681, Dryden became yet more conspicuous by uniting 
politicks with poetry, in the memorable satire called Absalom 
and Achitophel, written against the faction which, by Lord 

/ ,; ,v, „,.( , „i, K-f^".-i .'r Lh 

1701] DRYDEN. ^ 151 

Shaftesbury's incitement, set the Duke of Monmouth at its 

Of this poem, in wbich-^ersonal- satire was applied to the 
support of publick principles, and in which therefore every 
mind was^^togsted, the reception was eager, and the sale so 
large, that my father, an old bookseller, told me, he had not 
known it equalled but by Sacheverell's trial. 

The reason of this general perusal Addison has attempted 
to derive from the delight which the mind feels in the in- 
vestigation of secrets ; and thinks that curiosity to decypher 
the names procured readers to the poem. There is no need 
to enquire why those verses were read, which, to all the attrac- 
tions of wit, elegance, and harmony, added the co-operation 
of all the factious passions, and filled every mind with triumph 
or resentment. 

It could not be supposed that all the provocation given by 
Dryden would be endured without resistance or reply. Both 
his person and his party were exposed in their turns to the 
shafts of satire, which, though neither so well pointed nor 
perhaps so well aimed, undoubtedly drew blood. 

One of these poems is called Dryden's Satire on his Muse ; 
ascribed, though, as Pope says, falsely, to Somers, who was 
afterwards Chancellor. The poem, whose soever it was, has 
much virulence, and some spriteliness. The writer tells all 
the ill that he can collect both of Dryden and his friends. 

The poem of Absalom and Achitophel had two answers) now f 
both forgotten ; one called Azaria and Hushai ; the other f 
Absalom Senior. Of these hostile compositions, Dryden appa- 1 
rently imputes Absalom Senior to Settle, by quoting in his ' 
verses against him the second line. Azaria and Hushai was, 
as Wood says, imputed to him, though it is somewhat unlikely 1 
that he should write twice on the same occasion. This is 
a difficulty which I cannot remove, for want of a minuter ] 
knowledge of poetical transactions. 

The same year he published The Medal, of which the 

152 DRYDEN. [1631 — 

subject is a medal struck on Lord Shaftesbury's escape from 
a prosecution by the ignoramus of a grand jury of Londoners. 
In both poems he maintains the same principles, and saw 
them both attacked by the same antagonist. Elkanah Settle, 
who had answered Absalom, appeared with equal courage in 
opposition to The Medal, and published an answer called The 
Medal Reversed, with so much success in both encounters, that 
he left the palm doubtful, and divided the suffrages of the 
nation. Such are the revolutions of fame, or such is the 
prevalence of fashion, that the man whose works have not yet 
been thought to deserve the care of collecting them ; who died 
forgotten in an hospital ; and whose latter years were spent in 
contriving shows for fairs, and carrying an elegy or epithala- 
mium, of which the beginning and end were occasionally 
varied, but the intermediate parts were always the same, to 
every house where there was a funeral or a wedding ; might, 
with truth, have had inscribed upon his stone, 

Here lies the Rival and Antagonist of Dryden. 

Settle was, for this rebeUion, severely chastised by Dryden 
under the name of Doeg, in the second part of Absalom and 
Achitophel, and was perhaps for his factious audacity made 
the city poet, whose annual office was to describe the glories 
of the Mayor's day. Of these bards he was the last, and 
seems not much to have deserved even this degree of regard, 
if it was paid to his political opinions ; for he afterwards wrote 
a panegyrick on the virtues of Judge Jefiferies, and what more 
could have been done by the meanest zealot for prerogative ? 

Of translated fragments, or occasional poems, to enumerate 
the titles, or settle the dates would be tedious, with Httle use. 
It may be observed, that as Dryden's genius was commonly 
excited by some personal regard, he rarely writes upon a 
general topick. 

Soon after the accession of King James, when the design of 
reconciling the nation to the Church of Rome became apparent, 

1701] DRYDEN. 153 

and the religion of the court gave the only efficacious title to 
its favours, Dryden declared himself a convert to popery. 
This at any other time might have passed with little censure. 
Sir Kenelm Digby embraced popery ; the two Rainolds re- /^ , 
ciprocally converted one another ; and Chillingworth himself , 
was a while so entangled in the wilds of controversy, as to y/ 
retire for quiet to an infallible church. If men of argument . , 
and study can find such difficulties, or such motives, as may C i 
either unite them to the Church of Rome, or detain them in | ' 
uncertainty, there can be no wonder that a man, who perhaps 
never enquired why he was a protestant, should by an artful 
and experienced disputant be made a papist, overborne by the 
sudden violence of new and unexpected arguments, or deceived 
by a representation which shews only the doubts on one part, 
and only the evidence on the other. 

That conversion will always be suspected that apparently 
concurs with interest. He that never finds his error till it 
hinders his progress towards wealth or honour, will not be 
thought to love Truth only for herself. Yet it may easily 
happen that information may come at a commodious time ; 
and as truth and interest are not by any fatal necessity at 
variance, that one may by accident introduce the other. 
When opinions are struggling into popularity, the arguments 
by which they are opposed or defended become more known ; 
and he that changes his profession would perhaps have 
changed it before, with the like opportunities of instruction. 
This was then the state of popery ; every artifice was used 
to shew it in its fairest form ; and it must be owned to be a 
religion of external appearance sufficiently attractive. 

It is natural to hope that a comprehensive is likewise an 
elevated soul, and that whoever is wise is also honest. I am 
willing to believe that Dryden, having employed his mind, 
active as it was, upon different studies, and filled it, capacious 
as it was, with other materials, came unprovided to the con- 
troversy, and wanted rather skill to discover the right than 

IS4 DRYDEN. [1631— 

virtue to maintain it. But enquiries into the heart are not 
for man ; we must now leave him to his Judge. 

The priests, having strengthened their cause by so powerful 
an adherent, were not long before they brought him into 
action. They engaged him to defend the controversial papers 
found in the strong-box of Charles the Second, and, what yet 
was harder, to defend them against Stillingfleet. id'^if.-- i\,<>^i :J;^;,l 

With hopes of promoting popery, he was employed to trans- 
late Maimbourg's History of the League ; which he published 
with a large introduction. His name is likewise prefixed to 
the English Life of Francis Xavier ; but I know not that he 
ever owned himself the translator. Perhaps the use of his 
name was a pious fraud, which however seems not to have 
had much effect; for neither of the books, I believe, was ever 

The version of Xavier's Life is commended by Brown, in a 
pamphlet not written to flatter ; and the occasion of it is said 
to have been, that the Queen, when she solicited a son, made 
vows to him as her tutelary saint. 

He was supposed to have undertaken to translate Varillas's 
History of Heresies ; and when Burnet published Remarks 
upon it, to have written an Answer ; upon which Burnet makes 
the following observation ; 

" I have been informed from England, that a gentleman, 
who is famous both for poetry and several other things, had 
spent three months in translating M. Varillas's History; but 
that, as soon as my Reflections appeared, he discontinued his 
labour, finding the credit of his author was gone. Now, if 
he thinks it is recovered by his Answer, he will perhaps go on 
with his translation ; and this may be, for aught I know, as 
good an entertainment for him as the conversation that he had 
set on between the Hinds and Panthers, and all the rest of 
animals, for whom M. Varillas may serve well enough as an 
author : and this history and that poem are such extraordinary 
things of their kind, that it will be but suitable to see the 


author of the worst poem become likewise the translator of 1 
the worst history that the age has produced. If his grace and 
his wit improve both proportionably, he will hardly find that he 
has gained much by the change he has made, from having no 
religion to chuse one of the worst. It is true, he had some- 
what to sink from in matter of wit ; but as for his morals, it 
is scarce possible for him to grow a worse man than he was. 
He has lately wreaked his malice on me for spoiling his three 
months labour ; but in it he has done me all the honour that 
any man can receive from him, which is to be railed at by 
him. If I had ill-nature enough to prompt me to wish a very 
bad wish for him, it should be, that he would go on and finish 
his translation. By that it will appear, whether the EngKsh 
nation, which is the most competent judge in this matter, has," 
upon the seeing our debate, pronounced in M. Varillas's favour, 
or in mine. It is true, Mr. D. will suffer a little by it ; but at 
least it will serve to keep him in from other extravagancies ; 
and if he gains little honour by this work, yet he cannot lose 
so much by it as he has done by his last employment." 

Having probably felt his own inferiority in theological 
controversy, he was desirous of trying whether, by bringing 
poetry to aid his arguments, he might become a more effica- 
cious defender of his new profession. To reason in verse 
was, aindeed, one of his powers ; but subtilty and harmony 
united are still feeble, when opposed to truth. 

Actuated therefore by zeal for Rome, or hope of fame, he 
published the Hind and Panther, a poem in which the Church 
of Rome, figured by the milk-white Hind, defends her tenets 
against the Church of England, represented by the Panther, a 
beast beautiful, but spotted. 

A fable which exhibits two beasts talking Theology, appears 
at once full of absurdity ; and it was accordingly ridiculed in '|' 
the City Mouse and Country Mouse, a parody, written by 
Montague, afterwards Earl of Halifax, and Prior, who then 
gave the first specimen of his abilities. ' ,. -/ 

156 DRYDEN. [1631— 

The conversion of such a man, at such a time, was not 
likely to pass uncensured. Three dialogues were published 
by the facetious Thomas Brown, of which the two first were 
called Reasons of Mr. Bayes's changing his ReUgion : and the 
third The Reasons of Mr. Hains the player's Conversion and 
Re-conversion. The first was printed in 1688, the second 
not till 1690, the third in 1691. The clamour seems to have 
been long continued, and the subject to have strongly fixed 
the publick attention. 

In the two first dialogues Bayes is brought into the company 
of Crites and Eugenius, with whom he had formerly debated 
on dramatick poetry. The two talkers in the third are Mr. 
Bayes and Mr. Hains. 

Brown was a man not deficient in literature, nor destitute of 
fancy ; but he seems to have thought it the pinnacle of excel- 
lence to be a merry fellow ; and therefore laid out his powers 
upon small jests or gross buffoonery, so that his performances 
have little intrinsick value, and were read only while they 
were recommended by the novelty of the event that occasioned 

These dialogues are like his other works : what sense or 
knowledge they contain, is disgraced by the garb in which it 
is exhibited. One great source of pleasure is to call Dryden 
little Bayes. Ajax, who happens to be mentioned, is he 
that wore as many cowhides upon his shield as would have 
furnished half the king's army with shoe-leather. 

Being asked whether he has seen the Hind and Panther, 
Crites answers : Seen it I Mr. Bayes, why I can stir no where 
but it pursues me ; if haunts me worse than a pewter-buttoned 
Serjeant does a decayed cit. Sometimes T meet it in a band-box, 
when my laundress brings home my linen ; sometimes, whether I 
will or no, it lights my pipe at a coffee-tiouse ; sometimes it 
surprises me in a trunkmaker's shop ; and sometimes it refreshes 
my memory for me on the backside of a Chancery-lane parcel. 
For your comfoit too, Mr. Bayes, I have not only seen it, as you 

1701] DRYDEN. 157 

may perceive, but have read it too ; and can quote it as freely upon 
occasion as a frugal tradesman can quote that noble treatise the 
Worth of a Penny to his extravagant 'prentice, that revels in 
stewed apples and penny custards. 

The whole animation of these compositions arises from a 
profusion of ludicrous and afifected comparisons. To secure 
on^s chastity, says Bayes, little more is necessary than to leave off 
a correspondence with the other sex, which, to a wise man, is no 
greater a punishme?it than it would be to a fanatic parson to be 
forbid seeing the Cheats and the Committee ; or for my Lord 
Mayor and Aldermen to be interdicted the sight of the London 
Cuckold. — This is the general strain, and therefore I shall be 
easily excused the labour of more transcription. 

Brown does not wholly forget past transactions : You began, 
says Crites to Bayes, with a very indifferent religion, and have 
not mended the matter in your last choice. It was but reason 
that your Muse, which appeared first in a Tyrant's quarrel, 
should employ her last efforts to jusiifiy the usurpations of the 

Next year the nation was summoned to celebrate the birth 
of the Prince. Now was the time for Dryden to rouse his 
imagination, and strain his voice. Happy days were at hand, 
and he was willing to enjoy and diffuse the anticipated bless- 
ings. He published a poem, filled with predictions of great- 
ness and prosperity ; predictions of which it is not necessary 
to tell how they have been verified. 

A few months passed after these joyful notes, and every 
blossom of popish hope was blasted for ever by the Revolu- 
tion. A papist now could be no longer Laureat. The revenue, 
which he had enjoyed with so much pride and praise, was 
transferred to Shadwell, an old enemy, whom he had formerly 
stigmatised by the name of Og. Dryden could not decently yi 
complain that he was_ deposed ; but seemed very angr>' that 1 I 
Shadwell succeeded him,, and. Jias therefore celebrated the i 
intruder's inauguration in a poem exquisitely satirical, called 1 

-^'> r-f 


158 DRYDEN. [1631 — 

Mac Flecknog ; of which the Dunciad, as Pope himself de- 
t Clares, is an imitation, though more extended in its plan, and 
more diversified in its incidents. 

It is related by Prior, that Lord Dorset, when, as chamber- 
lain, he was constrained to eject Dryden from his office, gave 
him from his own purse an allowance equal to the salary. 
This is no romantick or incredible act of generosity; an 
hundred a year is often enough given to claims less cogent, 
by men less famed for liberality. Yet Dryden jjwajrs_ repre- 
sented himself as suffering under a publick infliction ; and 
once particularly demands respect for the patience with which 
he endured the loss of his little fortune. His patron might, 
indeed, enjoin him to suppress his bounty; but if he suffered 
nothing, he should not have complained. 

During the short reign of King James he had written nothing 
for the stage, being, in his opinion, more profitably employed 
in controversy and flattery. Of praise he might perhaps 
have been less lavish without inconvenience, for James was 
never said to have much regard for poetry : he was to be 
flattered only by adopting his religion. 

Times were now changed : Dryden was no longer the court- 
poet, and was to look back for support to his former trade ; 
and having waited about two years, either considering himself 
as discountenanced by the publick, or perhaps expecting a 
second revolution, he produced Don Sebastian in 1690; and 
in the next four years four dramas more. 

In 1693 appeared a new version of Juvenal and Persius. 
Of Juvenal he translated the first, third, siinr,~tenth, and six- 
teenth satires ; and of Persius the whole work. On this occa- 
sion he introduced his two sons to the publick, as nurselings 
of the Muses. The fourteenth of Juvenal was the work of 
John, and the seventh of Charles Dryden. He prefixed a very 
ample preface in the form of a dedication to Lord Dorset ; and 
there gives an account of the Resign which he had once formed 
to write an epick poem on the actions either of Arthur or the 

I70I] DRYDEN. 159 

Black Prince. He considered the epick as necessarily including 
some kind of supernatural agency, and had imagined a new- 
kind of contest between the guardian angels of kingdoms, of 
whom he conceived that each might be represented zealous for 
his charge, without any intended opposition to the purposes of 
the Supreme Being, of which all created minds must in part 
be ignorant. 

This is the most reasonable scheme of celestial interposition 
that ever was formed. The surprises and terrors of enchant- 
ments, which have succeeded to the intrigues and oppositions 
of pagan deities, afford very striking scenes, and open a vast 
extent to the imagination ; but, as Boileau observes, and 
Boileau will be seldom found mistaken, with this incurable 
defect, that in a contest between heaven and hell we know at 
the beginning which is to prevail ; for this reason we follow 
Rinaldo to the enchanted wood with more curiosity than terror. 
In the scheme of Dryden there is one great difficulty, which 
yet he would perhaps have had address enough to surmount. 
In a war justice can be but on one side ; and to entitle the 
hero to the protection of angels, he must fight in the defence 
of indubitable right. Yet some of the celestial beings, thus 
opposed to each other, must have been represented as 
defending guilt. 

That this poem was never written, is reasonably to be 
lamented It would doubtless have improved our numbers, 
and enlarged our language, and might perhaps have contributed 
by pleasing instruction to rectify our opinions, and purify our 

What he required as the indispensable condition of such an 
undertaking, a publick stipend, was not likely in those times 
to be obtained. Riches were not become familiar to us, nor 
had the nation yet learned to be liberal. 

This plan he charged Blackmore with stealing ; only says 
he, the guardian angels' of kingdoms were machines too ponderous 
for him to manage. 

i6o DRYDEN, [1631-- 

In 1694, he began the most laborious and difficult of all his 
works, the translatio n of V irglL; from which he borrowed two 
months, that he might turn Fresnoy's Art of Painting into 
English prose. The preface, which he boasts to have written 
in twelve mornings, exhibits a parallel of poetry and painting, 
with a miscellaneous collection of critical remarks, such as cost 
a mind stored like his no labour to produce them. 

In 1697, he published his version of the works of Virgil; 
and that no opportunity of profit might be lost, dedicated the 
Pastorals to the Lord Clifford, the Georgics to the Earl of 
Chesterfield, and the Eneid to the Earl of Mulgrave. This 
ceconomy of flattery, at once lavish and discreet, did not pass 
without observation. 

This translation was censured by Milbourney a clergyman, 
styled by Pope the fairest of criticks, because he exhibited his 
own version to be compared with that which he condemned. 

His last work was his .JaMes, published in 1699, in conse- 
quence, as is supposed, of a contract now in the hands of Mr. 
Tonson ; by which he obliged himself, in consideration of three 
hundred pounds, to finish for the press ten thousand verses. 

In this volume is comprised the well-known Ode on St. 
Ceciha's day, which, as appeared by a letter communicated 
to Dr. Birch, he spent a f ortnight in composing and correcting. 
But what is this to the patience and diligence of Boileau, 
whose Equivoque, a poem of only three hundred forty-six 
lines, took from his life eleven months to write it, and three 
years to revise it ! 

Part of this book of Fables is the fi rst Ilia d in English, 
intended as a specimen of a version of the whole. Consider- 
ing into what hands Homer was to fall, the reader cannot 
but rejoice that this project went no further. 

The time was now at hand which was to put an end to all 
his schemes and labours. On the first of May, lyoi, having 
been some time, as he tells us, a cripple in his limbs, he died 
in Gerard-street of a mortification in his leg. 

I70I] DRYDEN. i6i 

There is extant a wild story relating to some vexatious 
events that happened at his funeral, which, at the end of 
Congreve's Life, by a writer of I know not what credit, are 
thus related, as I find the account transferred to a biographical 
dictionary : 

" Mr. Dryden dying on the Wednesday morning, Dr. 
Thomas Sprat, then Bishop of Rochester and Dean of West- 
minster, sent the next day to the Lady Elizabeth Howard, 
Mr. Dryden's widow, that he would make a present of the 
ground, which was forty pounds, with all the other Abbey-fees. 
The Lord Halifax likewise sent to the Lady Elizabeth, and Mr. 
Charles Dryden her son, that, if they would give him leave 
to bury Mr. Dryden, he would inter him with a gentleman's 
private funeral, and afterwards bestow five hundred pounds on 
a monument in the Abbey ; which, as they had no reason to 
refuse, they accepted. On the Saturday following the com- 
pany came : the corpse was put into a velvet hearse, and 
eighteen mourning coaches, filled with company, attended. 
When they were just ready to move, the Lord Jefferies, son of 
the Lord Chancellor Jefferies, with some of his rakish com- 
panions coming by, asked whose funeral it was : and being 
told Mr. Dryden's, he said, ' What, shall Dryden, the greatest 
honour and ornament of the nation, be buried after this 
private manner ! No, gentlemen, let all that loved Mr. 
Dryden, and honour his memory, alight and join with me in , 
gaining my lady's consent to let me have the honour of his 
interment, which shall be after another manner than this; 
and I will bestow a thbusand pounds on a monument in the 
Abbey for him.' The gentlemen in the coaches, not knowing 
of the Bishop of Rochester's favour, nor of the Lord Halifax's 
generous design (they both having, out of respect to the 
family, enjoined the Lady Elizabeth and her son to keep 
their favour concealed to the world, and let it pass for 
!'i their own expence) readily came out of the coaches, and 
attended Lord Jefferies up to the lady's bedside, who was then 


I62 DRYDEN. [1631— 

sick; he repeated the purport of what he had before said; 
but she absolutely refusing, he fell on his knees, vowing 
never to rise till his request was granted. The rest of the 
company by his desire kneeled also ; and the lady, being 
under a sudden surprise, fainted away. As soon as she 
recovered her speech, she cried, 'No, no. ' ' Enough, gentlemen,' 
replied he ; ' my lady is very good, she says, Go, go.' She 
repeated her former words, with all her strength, but in vain ; 
for her feeble voice was lost in their acclamations of joy ; and 
the Lord Jefferies ordered the hearsemen to carry the corpse 
to Mr. Russel's, an undertaker's in Cheapside, and leave it 
there till he should send orders for the embalment, which, he 
added, should be after the royal manner. His directions were 
obeyed, the company dispersed, and Lady Elizabeth and her 
son remained inconsolable. The next day Mr. Charles Dryden 
waited on the Lord Halifax and the Bishop, to excuse his 
mother and himself, by relating the real truth. But neither 
his Lordship nor the Bishop would admit of any plea ; 
especially the latter, who had the Abbey lighted, the ground 
opened, the choir attending, an anthem ready set, and himself 
waiting for some time without any corpse to bury. The under- 
taker, after three days' expectance of orders for embalment 
without receiving any, waited on the Lord Jefferies ; who 
pretending ignorance of the matter, turned it off with an 
ill-natured jest, saying. That those who observed the orders 
of a drunken frolick deserved no better ; that he remembered 
nothing at all of it ; and that he might do what he pleased 
with the corpse. Upon this, the undertaker waited upon the 
Lady EUzabeth and her son, and threatened to bring the corpse 
home, and set it before the door. They desired a day's 
respite, which was granted. Mr. Charles Dryden wrote a 
handsome letter to the Lord Jefferies, who returned it with this 
cool answer, ' That he knew nothing of the matter, and 
would .be troubled no more about it." He then addressed the 
Lord Hahfax and the Bishop of Rochester, who absolutely 

I70I] DRYDEN. 163 

refused to do anything in it. In this distress Dr. Garth sent 
for the corpse to the College of Physicians, and proposed a 
funeral by subscription, to which himself set a most noble 
example. At last a day, about three weeks after Mr. Dryden's 
decease, was appointed for the interment : Dr. Garth pro- 
nounced a fine Latin oration, at the College, over the corpse ; 
which was attended to the Abbey by a numerous train of 
coaches. When the funeral was over, Mr. Charles Dryden 
sent a challenge to the Lord Jefferies, who refusing to answer 
it, he sent several others, and went often himself; but could 
neither get a letter delivered, nor admittance to speak to him : 
which so incensed him, that he resolved, since his Lordship 
refused to answer him like a gentleman, that he would watch 
an opportunity to meet, and fight off-hand, though with all 
the rules of honour; which his Lordship hearing, left the 
town : and Mr. Charles Dryden could never have the satisfac- 
tion of meeting him, though he sought it till his death with the 
utmost application." 

This story I once intended to. omit, as it appears with no 
great evidence; nor have I met with any confirmation but 
in a letter of Farquhar, and he only relates that the funeral 
of Dryden was tumultuary and confused. 

Supposing the story true, we may remark that the gradual 
change of manners, though imperceptible in the process, 
appears great when different times, and those not very 
distant, are compared. If at this time a young drunken Lord 
should interrupt the pompous regularity of a magnificent 
funeral, what would be the event, but that he would be 
justled out of the way, and compelled to be quiet? If he 
should thrust himself into a 'house, he would be sent roughly 
away; and what is yet more to the honour of the present 
time, I believe that those who had subscribed to the funeral 
of a man Uke Dryden, would not, for such an accident, have 
withdrawn their contributions. 

He was buried among the poets in Westminster Abbey, 

M 2 

i64 DRYDEN. [1631— 

where, though the Duke of Newcastle had, in a general 
dedication prefixed by Congreve to his dramatick works, 
accepted thanks for his intention of erecting him a monument, 
he lay long without distinction, till the Duke of Buckingham- 
shire gave him a tablet, inscribed only with the name of 
DRYDEN. i.i -■■"'' 

He married the Lady Elizabeth Howard, jflaughter of the 
Earl of Berkshire, with circumstances, according to the satire 
imputed to Lord Somers, not very honourable to either pa^ty ; 
by her he had three sons, Charles, John, and .Henry. Charles 
was usher of the palace to Pope Clement the Xlth, and 
visiting England in 1704, was drowned in an attempt to swim 
across the Thames at Windsor. 

John was author of a comedy called The Husband his 
Own Cuckold. He is said to have died at Rome. Henry 
entered into some religious order. It is some proof of 
Dryden's sincerity in his second religion, that he taught it to 
his sons. A man conscious of hypocritical profession in him- 
self is not likely to convert others; and as his sons were^^ 
qualified in 1693 to appear among the translators of Juvena-C--- 
they must have been taught some religion before their father's 

pf the person of Dryden I know not any account; of his mind, 
the portrait which has been left by Congreve, who knew him 
with great familiarity, is such as adds our love of his manners 
to our adrniration of Jiis genius. " He was," we are told, " of 
a nature exceedingly humane and compassionate, ready to for- 
give injuries, and capable of a sincere reconciliation with 
those that had offended him. His friendship, where he pro- 
fessed it, went beyond his professions. He was of a very 
easy, of very pleasing access ; but somewhat slow, and, as it 
were, diffident in his advances to others : he had that in his 
nature which abhorred intrusion into any society whatever. 
He was therefore less known, and consequently his character 
became more liable to misapprehensions and misrepresenta- 

a.a^^a I51+6 

1701] DRYDEN. 165 

tions : he was very modest, and very easily to be discounte- 
naiiced inTiiF approacEes to.his equals or superiors. As his 
reading had been very extensive, so was he very happy in a 
memory tenacious of every thing that he had read. He was 
not more possessed of knowledge thari he was communicative 
of it; but then his communication was by no means pedantick, 
or imposed upon the conversation, but just such, and went so 
far as, by the natural turn of the conversation in which he 
was engaged, it was necessarily promoted or required. He 
was extreme ready, and gentle in his correction of the errors 
of any writer who thought fit to consult him, and full as ready 
and patient to admit of the reprehensions of others, in respect 
of his gwn oversights or mistakes." 

To this account of Congreve nothing can be objected but 
the fondness of friendship ; and to have excited that fondness 
in such a mind is no small degree of praise. The disposition 
of Dryden, however, is shewn in this character rather as it 
exhibited itself in cursory conversation, than as it operated on 
the more important parts of life. His placability and his 
friendship indeed were solid virtues; but courtesy and good- 
humour are often found with little real worth. Since Congreve, 
who knew him well, has told us no more, the rest must be 
collected as it can from other testimonies, and particularly from 
those notices which Dryden has very liberally given us of 

The modesty which made him so slow to advance, and so 
easy to be repulsed, was certainly no suspicion of deficient 
merit, or unconsciousness of his own value : he appears to 
have known, in its whole extent, the dignity of his character, 
and to have set a very high value on his own powers and 
performances. He probably did not offer his conversation, 
because he expected it to be solicited ; and he retired from a 
cold reception, not submissive but indignant, with such 
reverence of his own greatness as made him unwilling to 
expose it to neglect or violation. 

166 ' DRYDEN. [1631— 

His modesty was by no means inconsistent with ostentatious- 
ness : he is dilligent enough to remind the world of his merit, 
and expresses with very little scruple his high opinion of his 
own powers ; but his self-commendations are read without 
scorn or indignation ; we allow his claims, and love his 

Tradition, however, has not allowed that his confidence in 
himself exempted him from jealousy of others. He is accused 
of envy and insidiousness ; and is particularly charged with 
inciting Creech to translate Horace, that he might lose the 
reputation which Lucretius had given him. 

Of this charge we immediately discover that it is merely 
conjectural; the purpose was such as no man would confess; 
and a crime that admits no proof why should we believe ? 

He has been described as magisterially presiding over the 
younger writers, and assuming the distribution of poetical 
fame ; but he who excels has a right to teach, and he whose 
judgement is incontestable may, without usurpation, examine 
and decide. 

Congreve represents him as ready to advise and instruct ; 
but there is reason to believe that his communication was 
rather useful than entertaining. He declares of himself that he 
was saturnine, and not one of those whose spritely sayings 
diverted company ; and one of his censurers makes him say, 

Nor wine nor love could ever see me gay ; 
To writing bred, I knew not what to say. 

There are men whose powers operate only at leisure and in 
retirement, and whose intellectual vigour deserts them in con- 
versation; whom merriment confuses, and objection disconcerts; 
whose bashfulness restrains their exertion, and suffers them not 
to speak till the time of speaking is past ; or whose attention 
to their own character makes them unwilling to utter at hazard 
what has not been considered, and cannot be recalled. 

Of Dryden's sluggishness in conversation it is vain to search 

I70I] DRYDEN. 167 

or to guess the cause. He certainly wanted neither sentiments 
nor language ; his intellectual treasures were great, though 
they were locked up from his own use. His thoughts, when he 
wrote, flowed in upon him so fast, that his only care was which 
to chuse, and which to reject. Such rapidity of composition 
naturally promises a flow of talk, yet we must be content to 
believe what an enemy says of him, when he likewise says it of 
himself. But whatever was his character as a companion, it 
appears that he lived in familiarity with the highest persons of 
his time. It is related by Carte of the Duke of Ormond, that 
he used often to pass a night with Dryden, and those with 
whom Dryden consorted : who they were. Carte has not told ; 
but certainly the convivial table at which Ormond sat was not 
surrounded with a plebeian society. He was indeed re- 
proached with boasting of his familiarity with the great ; and 
Horace will support him in the opinion, that to please 
superiors is not the lowest kind of merit. 

The merit of pleasing must, however, be estimated by the 
means. Favour is not always gained by good actions or 
laudable qualities. Caresses and preferments are often be- 
stowed on the auxiliaries of vice, the procurers of pleasiure, or 
the flatterers of vanity. Dryden has never been charged with 
any pers onal age ncy unworthy of a good character : he abetted 
vice and vanity only with his pen. One of his enemies has 
accused him of lewdness in his conversation ; but if accusa- 
tion without proof be credited, who shall be innocent ? 

His works afford too many examples of dissolute licentious- 
ness, and abject adulation ; but they were probably, like his 
merriment, artificial and constrained ; the effects of study and 
meditation, and his trade rather than his pleasure. 

Of the mind that can trade in corruption, and can de- 
liberately pollute itself with ideal wickedness for the sake of 
spreading the contagion .n society, I wish not to conceal 01 
excuse the depravity. Such degradation of the dignity of 
genius, such abuse of superlative abilities, cannot be contem- 

i68 DRYDEN. [1631— 

plated but with grief and indignation. What consolation can 
be had, Dryden has afforded, by living to repent, and to testify 
his repentance. 

Of draraatick immorality he did not want examples among 
his predecessors, or companions among his contemporaries ; 
but in the meanness and servility of hyperbolical adulation, 
I know not whether, since the days in which the Roman 
Emperors were deified, he has been ever equalled, except by 
Afra Behn in an address to EJeanpr Gwyn. When once he 
has undertaken the task of praise, he no longer retains shame 
in himself, nor supposes it in his patron. As many odoriferous 
bodies are observed to diffuse perfumes from year to year, 
without sensible diminution of bulk or weight, he appears 
never to have impoverished his mint of flattery by his ex- 
pences, however lavish. He had all the forms of excellence, 
intellectual and moral, combined in his mind, with endless 
variation ; and when he had scattered on the hero of the day 
the golden shower of wit and virtue, he had ready for him 
whom he wished to court on the morrow, new wit and virtue 
with another stamp. Of this kind of meanness he never seems 
to decline the practice, or lament the necessity : he considers 
the great as entitled to encomiastick homage, and brings praise 
rather as a tribute than a gift, more delighted with the fertility 
of his invention than mortified by the prostitution of his judge- 
ment. It is indeed not certain, that on these occasions his 
judgement much rebelled against his interest. There are 
minds which easily sink into submission, that look on grandeur 
with undistinguishing reverence, and discover no defect where 
there is elevation of rank and affluence of riches. 

With his praises of others and of himself is always inter- 
mingled a strain of discontent and lamentation, a sullen growl 
of resentment, or a querulous murmur of distress. His works 
are under-valued, his merit is unrewarded, and he has few 
thanks to pay his stars that he was born among Englishmen. 
To his criticks he is sometimes contemptuous, sometimes 

I70I] DRYDEN. 169 

resentful, and sometimes submissive. The writer who thinks 
his works formed for duration, mistakes his interest when he 
mentions his enemies. He degrades his own dignity by 
shewing that he was affected by their censures, and gives 
lasting importance to names, which, left to themselves, would 
vanish from remembrance. From this principle Dryden did 
not oft depart ; his complaints are for the greater part general ; 
he seldom pollutes his page with an adverse name. He con- 
descended indeed to a controversy with Settle, in which he 
perhaps may be considered rather as assaulting than repelhng ; 
and since Settle is sunk into oblivion, his libel remains injurious 
[ only to himself. 

Amongj^nswers to criticks, no poetical attacks, or alterca- 
tions, are to be included ; they are, like other poems, effusions 
of genius, produced as much to obtain praise as to obviate 
censure. These Dryden practised, and in these he excelled. 

Of Collier, Blackmore, and Milbourne, he has made mention 
in the preface to his Fables. To the censure of Colher, whose 
remarks may be rather termed admonitions than criticisms, he 
makes little reply ; being, at the age of sixty-eight, attentive to 
better things than the claps of a playhouse. He complains 
of Collier's rudeness, and the horse-play of his raillery; and 
asserts that in many places he has perverted by his glosses the 
meaning of what he censures ; but in other things he confesses 
that he is justly taxed; and says, with great calmness and 
candour, / have pleaded guilty to all thoughts or expressions of 
mine that can be truly accused of obscenity, immorality, or pro- 
faneness, and retract them. If he be my enemy, let him triumph ; 
if he be my friend, he will be glad of my repetitance. Yet, as our 
best dispositions are imperfect, he left standing in the same 
book a reflection on Collier of great asperity, and indeed of 
more asperity than wit. 

Blackmor£ji£L^j)resents as made his enemy by the poem 
of Absalom and Achitophel, whicTf -^^ thmks a little hardupon 
his fanatuk-pairpns'rdSA charges him with bbSo wing the plan 

170 DRYDEN. [1631— 

of his Arthur from the preface to Juvenal, though he had, says 
he, the baseness not to acknowledge his benefactor, but instead of 
it to traduce me in a libel. 

The libel in which Blackmore traduced him was a Satire 
upon Wit ; in which, having lamented the exuberance of false 
wit and the deficiency of true, he proposes that all wit should 
be re-coined before it is current, and appoints masters of assay 
who shall reject all that is light or debased. 

'Tis true that when the coarse and worthless dross 
Is purg'd away, there will be mighty loss ; 
Ev'n Congreve, Southern, manly Wycherley, 
When thus refin'd, will grievous sufferers be ; 
Into the melting-pot when Dryden comes, 
What horrid stench will rise, what noisome fumes ! 
How will he shrink, when all his lewd allay, 
And wicked mixture, shall be purg'd away ! 

Thus stands the passage in the last edition ; but in the original 
there was an abatement of the censure, beginning thus : 

But what remains will be so pure, 'twill bear 
Th' examination of the most severe. 

Blackmore, finding the censure resented, and the civility 
disregarded, ungenerously omitted the softer part. Such 
variations discover a writer who consults his passions more 
than his virtue ; and it may be reasonably supposed that 
Dryden imputes his enmity to its true cause. 

Of Milbourne he wrote only in general terms, such as are 
always ready at the call of anger, whether just or not : a short 
extract will be sufficient. He pretends a quarrel to me, that 1 
have fallen foul upon priesthood ; if T have, I am only to ask 
pardon of good priests, and am afraid his share of the reparation 
will come to little. Let him be satisfied that he shall never be able 
to force himself upon me for an adversary ; I contemn him too 
much to enter into competition with him. 

As for the rest of those who have written against me, they are 

I70I] BRYDEN 171 

such scoundrels that they deserve not the least notice to be token of 
them. Blackmore and Milbourne are only distinguished from the 
crowd by being remembered to their infamy. 

Dryden indeed discovered, in many of his writings, an 
affected and absurd malignity to priests and priesthood, which 
naturally raised him many enemies, and which was sometimes 
as unseasonably resented as it was exerted. Trapp is angry 
that he calls the sacrificer in the Georgicks the holy butcher : 
the translation is indeed ridiculous ; but Trapp's anger arises 
from his zeal, not for the author, but the priest; as if any 
reproach of the follies of paganism could be extended to the 
preachers of truth. 

Dryden' s. dislike of the priesthood is imputed by Langbaine, J/ 
and I think by Brown, to a repulse which he suffered when he 
solicited ordination ; but he denies, in the preface to his Fables, 
that he ever designed to enter into the church ; and such a 
denial he would not have hazarded, if he could have been 
convicted of falsehood. 

Malevolence to the clergy is seldom at a great distance from 
irreverence of religion, and Dryden affords no exception to 
this observation. His writings exhibit many passages, which, 
with all the allowance that can be made for characters and 
occasions, are such as piety would not have admitted, and 
such as may vitiate light and unprincipled minds. But there 
is no reason for supposing that he disbelieved the religion which 
he disobeyed. He forgot his duty rather than disowned it. 
His tendency to profaneness is the effect of levity, negligence, 
and loose conversation, with a desire of accommodating himself 
to the corruption of the times, by venturing to be wicked as far 
as he durst. When he professed himself a convert to Popery, 
he did not pretend to have received any new conviction of the 
fundamental doctrines of Christianity. 

The persecution of criticks was not the worst of his 
vexations ; he was much more disturbed by the importunities 
of want. His complaints of poverty are so frequently repeated, 

172 DRYDEN. [1631— 

either with the dejection of weakness sinking in helpless misery, 
or the indignation of merit claiming its tribute from mankind, 
that it is impossible not to detest the age which could impose 
on such a man the necessity of such solicitations, or not to 
despise the man who could submit to such solicitations without 
necessity. 'ItiJ u ^ , \ /dA ri',. 

Whether by the world's neglect, or his own imprudence, 
I am afraid that the greatest part of his life was passed in 
exigences. Such outcries were surely never uttered but in 
severe pain. Of his supplies or his expences no probable 
estimate can now be made. Except the salary of the Laureate, 
to which King James added the office of Historiographer, 
perhaps with some additional emoluments, his whole revenue 
seems to have been casual ; and it is well known that he 
seldom lives frugally who lives by chance. Hope is always 
liberal, and they that trust her promises make little scruple of 
revelling to-day on the profits of the morrow- 

Of his plavsthe profit w as not gr eat^nd .of the produce of 
his other works very little intelligence can be had. By dis- 
coursing with the late amiable Mr. Tonson, I could not find 
that any memorials of the transactions between his predecessor 
and Dryden had been preserved, except the following papers : 

"I do hereby promise to pay John Dryden, Esq., or order, 
on the 2Sth of March, 1699, the sum of two hundred and 
fifty guineas, in consideration of ten thousand verses, which 
the said John Dryden, Esq., is to deliver to me, Jacob 
Tonson, when finished, whereof seven thousand five hundred 
verses, more or less, are already in the said Jacob Tonson's 
possession. And I do hereby farther promise, and engage 
myself, to make up the said sum of two hundred and fifty 
guineas three hundred pounds sterling to the said John 
Dryden, Esq., his executors, administrators, or assigns, at the 
beginning of the second impression of the said ten thousand 
verses. _ 

1 ^^ j( - -fui^'" 

' ■■■■) 

1701] I- DRYDEN. 173 

" In witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and seal, 
this 20th day of March, i69f. 

"Jacob Tonson. 
" Sealed and delivered, being first 
duly stampt, pursuant to the acts 
of parliament for that purpose, 
in the presence of 

Ben. Portlock. 
Will. Congreve." 

" March 24th, 1698. 
"Received then of Mr. Jacob Tonson the sum of two 
hundred sixty-eight poujids-^fifteen shillings, in pursuance 
of an agreemSnt— fi5ften thousand verses, to be delivered by 
me to the said Jacob Tonson, whereof I have already delivered 
to him about seven thousand five hundred, more or less ; he 
the said Jacob Tonson being obliged to make up the foresaid 
sum of two hundred sixty-eight pounds fifteen shillings tjiree 
hundred pounds, at the beginning of the second impression of 
the foresaid ten thousand verses ; 

"I say, received by me 

"John Dryeen. 
"Witness Charles Dryden." 

Two hundred and fifty guineas, at il. is. 6d. is 268/. i5j-. 

It is manifest from the dates of this contract, that it relates 
to the volume of Fables, which contains about twelve thousand 
verses, and for which therefore the payment must have been 
afterwards enlarged. 

I have been told of another letter yet remaining, in which 
he desires Tonson to bring him money, to pay for a watch 
which he had ordered for his son, and which the maker would 
not leave without the price. 

The inevitable consequence of poverty is dependence. 
Dryden had probably no recourse in his exigences but to his 
bookseller. The particular character of Tonson I do not 
know; but the general conduct of traders was much less 

174 DRYDEN. [1631— 

liberal in those times than in our own ; their views were 
narrower, and their manners ^grosser. To the mercantile 
ruggedness of that race, the delicacy of the poet was some- 
times exposed. Lord Bolingbroke, who in his youth had 
cultivated poetry, related to Dr. King of Oxford, that one 
day, when he visited Dryden, they heard, as they were con- 
versing, another person entering the house. " This," said 
Dryden, "is Tonson. You will take care not to depart before 
he goes away; for 1 have not completed the sheet which I 
promised him ; and if you leave me unprotected, I must suffer 
all the rudeness to which his resentment can prompt his 

What rewards he obtained for his poems, besides the pay- 
ment of the bookseller, cannot be known : Mr. Derrick, who 
consulted some of his relations, was informed that his Fables 
obtained five hundred pounds from the Dutchess of Ormond ; 
a present not unsuitable to the magnificence of that splendid 
family ; and he quotes Moyle, as relating that forty pounds 
were paid by a musical society for the use of Alexander's 

In those days the econo my of g overnment was yet un- 
settled, and the payments of the Exchequer were dilatory and 
uncertain : of this disorder there is reason to believe that the 
Laureate sometimes felt the effects ; for in one of his prefaces 
he complains of those, who, being intrusted with the distribu- 
tion of the Prince's bounty, suffer those that depend, upon it 
to languish in penury. 

Of his petty habits or sHght amusements, tradition has 
retained little. Of the only two men whom I have found to 
whom he was personally known, one told me that at the house 
which he frequented, called Will's Coffee-house, the appeal 
upon any literary dispute was made to him ; and the other 
related, that his armed chair, which in the winter had a settled 
and prescriptive place by the fire, was in the summer placed 
in the balcony, and that he called the two places his winter 

1701] DRYDEN. 1 75 

and his summer seat. This is all the intelligence which his 
two survivors afforded me. 

One of his opinions will do him no honour in the present 
age, though in his own time, at least in the beginning of it, he 
was far from having it confined to himself. He put great 
confidence in the prognostications of judicial astrology. In 
the Appendix to the Life of Congreve is a narrative of some 
of his predictions wonderfully fulfilled ; but I know not the 
writer's means of information, or character of veracity. That 
he had the configurations of the horoscope in his mind, and 
considered them as influencing the affairs of men, he does not 
forbear to hint. 

L. "^ H The utmost malice of the stars is past. — 
^' j 1'' Now frequent /;22£i the happier lights ampng, 

; , y^-. ij !■."' And high-rai^djove, from his dark prison freed, 
•' '■ ,1 '!j Those weights took off that on his planet hung, 

!'-' ' Will gloriously the new-laid works succeed. 

He has elsewhere shewn his attention to the planetary powers; 
and in the preface to his Fables has endeavoured obliquely to 
justify his superstition, by attributing the same to some of the 
Ancients. The latter, added to this narrative, leaves no doubt 
of his notions or practice. 

So slight and so scanty is the knowledge which I have been 
able to collect concerning the private life and domestic manners 
of a man, whom every English generation must mention with 
reverence as a critick and a poet. 

DRYDEN may be properly considered as the father of 
EnglislicHET^rn^""as the'"wrifer"w1!o' first taught us to determine 
upon prmcTpTes the merit of composition. Of our former 
poets, the greatest dramatist wrote without rules, conducted 
through life and nature by a genius that rarely misled, and 
rarely deserted him. Of the rest, those who knew the laws of 
propriety had neglected to teach them. 

o '-■ c'.vjy-! 

176 DRYDEN. [163 1— 

Two Arts of English Poetry were written in the days of 

Elizabeth by Webb and Puttenham, from which something 

might be learned, and a few hints had been given by Jonson 

■ and Cowley ; but Dryden's Essay on Dramatick Poetry was 

the first regular and valuable treatise on the art of writing. 

He who, having formed his opinions in the present age of 
English literature, turns back to peruse this dialogue, will not 
perhaps find much increase of knowledge, or much novelty 
of instruction ; but he is to remember that critical principles 
were then in the hands of a few, who had gathered them partly 
from the Ancients, and partly from the Italians and French. 
The structure of dramatick poems was not then generally 
understood. Audiences applauded by instinct, and poets 
perhaps often pleased by chance. 

A writer who obtains his full purpose loses himself in his 
own lustre. Of an opinion which is no longer doubted, the 
evidence ceases to be examined. Of an art universally 
practised, the first teacher is forgotten. Learning once made 
popular is no longer learning ; it has the appearance of some- 
thing which we have bestowed upon ourselve.s, as the dew 
appears to rise from the field which it refreshes. 

To judge rightly of an author, we must transport ourselves 
to his time, and examine what were the wants of his contem- 
poraries, and what were his means of supplying them. 
That which is easy at one time was diflScult at another. 
Dryden at least imported his science, and gave his country 
what it wanted before ; or rather, he imported only the 
materials, and manufactured them by his own skill. 

The dialogue on the Drama was one of his first essays of 
criticism, written when he was yet a timorous candidate for 
reputation, and therefore laboured with that diligence which 
he might allow himself somewhat to remit, when his name 
gave sanction to his positions, and his awe of the public was 
abated, partly by custom, and partly by success. It will not 
be easy to find, in all the opulence of our language, a treatise 

I70i] DRYDEN. 177 

so artfully varipgatcrl wi(- >| Biirrnnrirr irp i T -i rn l i il i iiii , ii ri i | i | i [ i 
"site probab ilities, so enlivened with imagery, so brightned 
with Illustrations. His portraits of the English dramatists 
are wrought with great spirit and diligence. The account of 
Shakspeare may stand as a perpetual model of encomiastick 
criticism ; exact without minuteness, and lofty without exagge- 
ration. The praise lavished by Longinus, on the attestation of 
the heroes of Marathon, by Demosthenes, fades away before 
it. In a few lines is exhibited a character, so extensive in its 
comprehension, and so curious m its limitations, that nothing 
can be added, di ^xmshed j, or reformed; nor can the editors 
and admirers of Shakspeare, in all their emulation of reverence, 
boast of much more than of having diffused and paraphrased 
this epitome of excellence, of having changed Dryden's gold 
for baser metal, of lower value though of greater bulk. 

In this, and in all his other essays on the same subject, the 
criticism of Dryden is the criticism of a poet ; not a dull 
collection of theorems, nor a rude detection of faults, which 
perhaps the censor was not able to have committed ; but a gay 
and vigorous dissertation, where delight is mingled with in- 
struction, and where the author proves his right of judgement, 
by his power of performance. 

The different manner and effect with which critical know- 
ledge may be conveyed, was perhaps never more clearly 
exemplified than in the performances of Rymer and Dryden. 
It was said of a dispute between two mathematicians, '' malim 
cum Scaligero errare, quam cum Clavio recte sapere ; " that 
it was more eligible to go wrong with one than right with the 
other. A tendency of the same kind every mind must feel at 
the perusal of Dryden's prefaces and Rymer's discourses. 
With Dryden we are wandering in quest of Truth j whom we 
find, if we find her at all, drest in the graces of elegance ; and 
if we miss her, the labour of the pursuit rewards itself; we are 
led only through fragrance and flowers : Rymer, without taking 
a nearer, takes a rougher way ; every step is to be made 

! f f i I 

J78 DRYDEN. [1631— 

through thorns and brambles; and Truth, if we meet her, 
appears repulsive by her mien, and ungraceful by her habit. 
Dryden's criticism has the majesty of a queen ; Rymer's has 
the ferocity of a tyrant. 

As he ■ had studied with great diUgence the art of poetry, 
and enlarged or rectified his notions, by experience perpetually 
increasing, he had his mind stored with principles and obser- 
\-ations ; he poured out his knowledge with little labour ; for 
of labour, notwithstanding the multipUcity of his productions, 
there is sufficient reason to suspect that he was not a lover. 
To write con amore, with fondness for the employment, with 
perpetual touches and retouches, with unwillingness to take 
leave of his own idea, and an unwearied pursuit of unattainable 
perfection, was, I think, no part of his character. 

His Criticism may be considered as general or occasional. 
. In his general precepts, which depend upon the nature of 
things, and the structure of the human mind, he may doubtless 
be safely recommended to the confidence of the reader ; but 
his occasional and particular positions were sometimes in- 
terested, sometimes negligent, and sometimes capricious. It is 
not without reason that Trapp, speaking of the praises which 
he bestows on Palamon and Arcite, says, " Novimus judicium 
Drydeni de poemate quodam Chauceri, pulchro sane^illo, et 
ij admodum laudando, nimirum quod non modo vere epjhum sit, 
' sed Iliada etiam atque ^neada aequet, imo superet. Sed 
novimus eodem tempore viri illius maximi rioii seiJiper accura- 
tissimas esse censuras, nee ad severissimam critices norniam 
exactas : illo judice id plerumque optimum est, quod nunc 
prse manibus habet, & in quo nunc occupatur." 

He is therefore by no means constant to himself His 
defence and desertion of dramatick rhyme is generally known. 
Spence, in his remarks on Pope's Odyssey, produces what he 
thinks an unconquerable quotation from Dryden's preface to 
the Eneid, in favour of translating an epic poem into blank 
verse j but he forgets that when his author attempted the 

I70I] ■ DRY DEN. 179 

Iliad, some years afterwards, he departed from his own 
decision, and translated into rhyme. 

When he has any objection to obviate, or any license to 
defend, he is not very scrupulous about what he asserts, nor 
very cautious, if the present purpose be served, not to entangle 
himself in his own sophistries. But when all arts are ex- 
hausted, like other hunted animals, he sometimes stands at 
bay J when he cannot disown the grossness of one of his 
plays, he declares that he knows not any law that prescribes 
morality to a comick poet. 

His remarks on ancient or modern writers are not always to 
be trusted. His parallel of the versification of Ovid with that 
of Claudian has been very justly censured by Sewel.^ His 
comparison of the first line of Virgil with the first of Statius 
is not happier. Virgil, he says, is soft and gentle, and would 
have thought Statius mad if he had heard him thundering 

Qusa superimposito moles geminata colosso. 

Statius perhaps heats himself, as he proceeds, to exaggera- '>\j^ 
tions somewhat hyperbolical ; but undoubtedly Virgil wbuU^ /^^ 
have been too hasty, if he had condemned him to straw^r \ t 

one sounding line. Dryden wanted an instance, and the" first 
that occurred was imprest into the service. 

What he wishes to say, he says at hazard ; he cited Gor- ^-^ 
Jjudu c, which he had never seen ; gives a false account_j3f (e t* 
Chapman's versification; and discovers, Jn-t-he'preface to his XV 
Fables, that he translated the first book of the Iliad, without . ( 
knowing what was in the second. , H ( 

It will be difficult to prove that Dryden ever made any "J-S 
great advances in literature. As having distinguished himself 1 
at Westminster under the tuition of Busby, who advanced his 
scholars to a height of knowledge very rarely attained in 
grammar-schools, he resided afterwards at Cambridge, it is 
^ Preface to Ovid's Metamorphoses, 

i8o DRYDEN. [1631— 

not to be supposed, that his skill in the ancient languages was 
deficient, compared with that of common students ; but his 
scholastick acquisitions seem not proportionate to his opportu- 
nities and abilities. He could not, like Milton or Cowley, 
have made his name illustrious merely by his learning. He 
mentions but few books, and those such as lie in the beaten 
track of regular study ; from which if ever he departs, he is 
in danger of losing himself in unknown regions. 

In his Dialogue on the Drama, he pronounces with great 
confidence that the Latin tragedy of Medea is not Ovid's, 
because it is not sufficiently interesting and pathetick. He 
might have determined the question upon surer evidence ; 
for it is quoted by Quintilian as the work of Seneca ; and the 
only line which remains of Ovid's play, for one line is left us, 
is not there to be found. There was therefore no need of the 
gravity of conjecture, or the discussion of plot or sentiment, 
to find what was already known upon higher authority than 
such discussions can ever reach. 

His literature, though not always free from ostentation, will 
be commonly found either obvious, and made his own by the 
art of dressing it ; or superficial, which, by what he gives, 
shews what he wanted ; or erroneous, hastily collected, and 
negligently scattered. 

Yet it cannot be said that his genius is ever unprovided of 

matter, or that his fancy languishes in penury of ideas. His 
works abound with knowledge, and sparkle with illustrations. 
There is scarcely any science or faculty that does not supply 
him with occasional images and lucky similitudes ; every page 
discovers. a mind very widely acquainted .bflth- witb^art and 
nature, and in full possession of great stores of intellectual 
wealth. Of him that knows much, it is natural to suppose 
that he has read with diligence ; yet I rather believe that the 
knowledge of Dryden was gleaned from accidental intelligence 
and various conversation, by a quick apprehension, a judicious 
selection, and a happy memory, a keen appetite of knowledge, 

.-- , ' 

I70I] DRYDEN. i8i 

and a powerful digestion ; by vigilance that permitted nothing 
to pass without notice, and a habit of reflection that suffered 
nothing useful to be lost. A mind like Dryden's, always 
curious, always active, to which every understanding was proud 
to be associated, and of which every one solicited the regard, 
by an ambitious display of himself, had a more pleasant, per- 
haps a nearer way, to knowledge than by the silent progress of 
solitary reading. I do not suppose that he despised books, or 
intentionally neglected them ; but that he was carried out, by 
the impetuosity of his genius, to more vivid and speedy in- 
structors ; and that his studies were rather desultory and 
fortuitous than constant and systematical. 

It must be confessed that he scarcely ever appears to want 
book-learning but when he mentions books ; and to him may 
be transferred the praise which he gives his master Charles. 

His conversation, wit, and parts. 
His knowledge in the noblest useful arts, 

Were such, dead authors could not give. 

But habitudes of those that live ; 
Who, lighting him, did greater lights receive : 

He drain'd from all, and all they knew, 
His apprehension quick, his judgement true : 

That the most learn'd with shame confess 
His knowledge more, his reading only less. 

Of all this, however, if the proof be demanded, I will not 
undertake to give it ; the atoms of probability, of which my 
opinion has been formed, lie scattered over all his works ; and 
by him who thinks the question worth his notice, his works 
must be perused with very close attention. 

Criticism, either didactick or defensivCj^ occupies almost all 
his_ prose, except those' pages which he has devoted to his 
patrons ; but none of his prefaces were ever thought tedious. 
They have not the formality of a settled style, in which the 
first half of the sentence betrays the other. The clauses are 
never balanced, nor the periods modelled ; every word seems 
to drop by chance, though it falls into its proper place. 

iS2 DRYDEN. [1631- 

Nothing is cold or languid ; the whole is airy, atiimated, and 
vigorous; what is little, is gay; what is great, is splendid. He 
may be thought to mention himself too frequently ; but while" 
he forces himself upon our esteem, we cannot refuse him to 
stand high in his own. Every thing is excused by the play of 
images and the spriteliness of expression. Though all is easy, 
nothing is feeble ; though all seems careless, there is nothing 
harsh ; and though, since his earlier works, more than a 
century has passed, they have nothing yet uncouth or obsolete. 

He who writes much, will not easily escape a manner, such 
a recurrence of particular modes as may be easily noted. 
Dryden is always another and the same, he does not exhibit 
a second time the same elegances in the same form, nor 
appears to have any art other than that of expressing with 
clearness what he thinks with vigour. His style could not 
easily be imitated, either seriously or ludicrously; for, being 
always equable and always varied, it has no prominent or 
discriminative characters. The beauty who is totally free from 
disproportion of parts and features, cannot be ridiculed by an 
overcharged resemblance. 

From his prose, however, Dryden derives only his accidental 
and secondary praise ; the veneration with which his name is 
pronounced by every cultivator of English literature, is paid to 
him as he refined the language, impro^^d the sentiments, and 
tuned the numbers of English Poetry. 

After about half a century of forced thoughts, and rugged 
metre, some advances towards nature and harmony had been 
already made by 'V\ialler and Dgnham; they had shewn that 
long discourses in rhyme grew more pleasing when they were 
broken into couplets, and that verse consisted not only in the 
number bu\ the arrangement of syllables. 

But though they did much, who can deny that they left 
much to do ? Their works were not many, nor were their 
minds of very ample comprehension. More examples of more 
modes of composition were necessary for the establishment of 

I70I] DRYDEN. 183 

regularity, and the introduction of propriety in word and 

Every language of a learned nation necessarily divides itself 
into diction scholastick and popular, grave and familiar, elegant 
and gross ; and from a nice distinction of these different parts, 
arises a great part of the beauty of style. But if we except a 
few minds, the favourites of nature, to whom their own original 
rectitude was in the place of rules, this dehcacy of selection 
was little known to our authors ; our speech lay before them 
in a heap of confusion, and every man took for every purpose 
what chance might offer him. 

There was therefore. -^eftire' the time of Dry den no poetical 
diction, ho system of words at once refined from the grossness 
of„_dornestick use, and free from the harshness of terras 
appropriated to particular arts. Words too familiar, or too 
remote, defeat the purpose of a poet. From those sounds which 
we hear on small or on coarse occasions, we do not easily 
receive strong impressions, or delightful images ; and words to 
which we are nearly strangers, whenever they occur, draw that 
attention on themselves which they should transmit to things. 

Those happy combinations of words which distinguish 
poetry from prose, had been rarely attempted ; we had few 
elegances or flowers of speech, the roses had not yet been 
plucked from the bramble, or different colours had not been 
joined to enliven one another. 

It may be doubted whether Waller and Denham could have 
over-borne the prejudices which had long prevailed, and which 
even then were sheltered by the protection of Cowley. The 
new versififi^tien, as it was called, may bejxjnsidered as owing 
its establishment to Dryden ; from whose time it is apparent 
that English poetiy has had no tendency to relapse to its 
former savageness. 

The affluence and comprehension of our language is very 
illustriously displayed in our poetical translations of Ancient 
Writers ; a work which the French seem to relinquish in 

i34 DRYDEN. [1631— 

despair, and which we were long unable to perform with 
dexterity. Ben Jonson thought it necessary to copy Horace 
almost word by word; Feltham, his contemporary and ad- 
versary, considers it as indispensably requisite in a translation 
to give line for line. It is said that Sandys, whom Dryden 
calls the best versifier of the last age, has struggled hard to 
comprise every book of his English Metamorphoses in the 
same number of verses with the original. Holyday had 
nothing in view but to shew that he understood his author, with 
so little regard to the grandeur of his diction, or the volubility 
of his numbers, that his metres can hardly be called verses ; 
they cannot be read without reluctance, nor will the labour 
always be rewarded by understanding them. Cowley saw that 
such copyers were a servile race ; he asserted his liberty, and 
spread his wings so boldly that he left his authors. It was 
reserved for Dryden to fix the limits of poetical liberty, and 
give us just rules and examples of translation. 

When languages are formed upon different principles, it is 
impossible that the same modes of expression should always 
be elegant in both. While they run on together, the closest 
translation may be considered as the best ; but when they 
divaricate, each must take its natural course. Where corre- 
spondence cannot be obtained, it is necessary to be content 
with something equivalent. Translation therefore, says Dryden, 
is not so loose as paraphrase, nor so dose as metaphrase. 

All polished languages have different styles ; the concise, the 
diffuse, the lofty, and the humble. In the proper choice of 
style consists the resemblance which Dryden principally exacts 
from the translator. He is to exhibit his author's thoughts in 
such a dress of diction as the author would have given them, 
had his language been English ; rugged magnificence is not to 
be softened : hyperbolical ostentation is not to be repressed, 
nor sententious affectation to have its points blunted. A 
translator is to be like his author : it is not his business to 
excel him. 

I70I] DRYDEN. 185 

The reasonableness of these rules seems sufficient for their 
vindication ; a,nd the effects produced by observing them were 
so happy, that I know not whether they were ever opposed but 
by Sir Edward Sherburne, a man whose learning was greater 
than his powers of poetry ; and who, being better qualified to 
give the meaning than the spirit of Seneca, has introduced his 
version of three tragedies by a defence of close translation. 
The authority of Horace,, which the new translators cited in 
defence of their practice, he has, by a judicious explana- 
tion, taken fairly from them ; but reason wants not Horace to 
support it. 

It seldom happens that all the necessary causes concur to 
any great effect : will is wanting to power, or power to will, or 
both are impeded by external obstructions. The exigences in 
which Dryden was condemned to pass his life, are reasonably 
supposed to have blasted his genius, to have driven out his 
works in a state of immaturity, and to have intercepted the 
full-blown elegance which longer growth would have supplied. 

Poverty, like other rigid powers, is sometimes too hastily 
accused. If the excellence of Dryden's works was lessened 
by his indigence, their number was increased ; and I know not 
how it will be proved, that if he had written less he would have 
written better; or that indeed he would have undergone the 
toil of an author, if he had not been solicited by something 
more pressing than the love of praise. 

But as is said by his Sebastian, 

What h^d been, is unknown ; what is, appears. 

We know that Dryden's several productions were so many 
successive expedients for his support ; his plays were therefore 
often borrowed, and his poems were almost all oc casio nal. 

In an occasional performance no height of excellence can 
be expected from any mind, however fertile in itself, and how- 
ever stored with acquisitions. He whose work is general and 
a rbitrary , has the choice of his matter, and takes that which 

i86 DRYDEN. [1631— 

his inclination and his studies have best qualified him to dis- 
play and decorate. He is at liberty to delay his publication, 
till he has satisfied his friends and himself; till he has reformed 
his first thoughts by subsequent examination ; and polished 
away those faults which the precipitance of ardent composition 
is likely to leave behind it. Virgil is related to have poured 
out a great number of lines in the morning, and to have passed 
the day in reducing them to fewer. 

The o ccasio nal poet is circumscribed by the narrowness of 
his subject. Whatever can happen to man has happened so 
often, that little remains for fancy or invention. We have 
been all born ; we have most of us been married, and so many 
have died before us, that our deaths can supply but few materials 
for a poet. In the fate of princes the publick has an interest ; 
and what happens to them of good or evil, the poets have 
always considered as business for the Muse. But after so 
many inauguratory gratulations, nuptial hymns, and funeral 
dirges, he must be highly favoured by nature, or by fortune, 
who says any thing not said before. Even war and conquest, 
however splendid, suggest no new images ; the triumphal 
chariot of a victorious monarch can be decked only with those 
ornaments that have graced his predecessors. 

Not only matter but time is wanting. The poem must not 
be delayed till the occasion is forgotten. The lucky moments 
of animated imagination cannot be ^tjended ; elegances and 
illustrations cannot be multiplied by gradual accumulation : 
the composition must be dispatched while conversation is yet 
busy, and admiration fresh; and haste is to be made, lest 
some other event should lay hold upon mankind. 

Occasional compositions may however secure to a writer the 
praise both of learning and facility : for they cannot be the 
effect of long study, and must be furnished immediately from 
the treasures of the mind. 

The._deaJ;h of Cromwell was the first puhlinW evpnt- which 
called forth- Dryden's pjDetical powers. His heroick stanzas 

1701] ' 7 DRYDEN. 187 

have beauties and defects ; the thoughts are vigorous, and 
though not always proper, shew a mind replete with ideas ; the 
numbers are smooth, and the diction, if not altogether correct, 
is elegant and easy. 

Davenant was perhaps at this time his favourite author, <^ 
though G ondibe rt never appears to have been popular ; and 
from Davenant he learned to please his ear with the stanza of 
four lines alternately rhymed. 

Dryden very early formed his versification : there are in this 
early production no traces of Donne's or Jonson's ruggedness ; 
but he did not so soon free his mind from the ambition of forced 
conceits. In his verses on the Restoration, he says of the 
King's exile. 

He, toss'd by Fate — 
Could taste no sweets of youth's desired age, 
But found his life too true a pilgrimage. 

And afterwards, to shew how virtue and wisdom are increased 
by adversity, he makes this remark : 

Well might the ancient poets then confer 
On Night the honour'd name of counsellor. 
Since, struck with rays of prosperous fortune blind, 
We light alone in dark afflictions find. 

His praise of Monk's dexterity comprises such a cluster of 
thoughts unallied to one another, as will not elsewhere be 
easily found : 

'Twas Monk, whom Providence designed to loose 

Those real bonds false freedom did impose. 

The blessed saints that watch'd this turning scene, 

Did from their stars with joyful wonder lean. 

To see small clues draw vastest weightsjJong, -^ 

Not in their bulk, but in theiiTofSeiTtrong. 

Thus pencils can by one slight touch restore 

Smiles to that changed face that wept before. 

With ease such fond chimasras we pursue, 

As fancy frames for fancy to subdue : 

But, when ourselves to action we betake. 

It shuns the mint like gold that chymists make : 

illxu- r 


iS8 DRYDEN. [1631— 

I , (jW- < How hard was then his task, at once to be 

fc«.vi ■■ )_ What in the body natural we see ! 

Man's Architect distinctly did ordain 
The charge of muscles, nerves, and of the brain, 
Through viewless conduits spirits to dispense 
The springs of motion from the seat of sense. 
'Twas not the hasty product of a day, 
But the well-ripen'd fruit of wise delay. 
He, like a patient angler, ere he strojjk, -^ 

Would let them play a-while upon the hook. 
Our healthful food the stomach labours thus. 
At first embracing what it straight doth crush. 
I, , > Wise l each es will not vain receipts obtrude, 

While growing pains pronounce the humours crude ; 
Deaf to complaints, they wait upon the ill, 
Till some safe crisis authorize their skill. 

He had not yet learned, indeed, he never learned well, to 
forbear, the improper use of mythology. After having rewarded 
the heathen deities for their care, 

With 'Alga who the sacred altar strows ? 
^ To all the sea-gods Charles an offering owes ; 

{^cvw ^'" '" ' A, bull to thee, Poijunus, shall be slain ; 
I J ^ ,\ i ■--, J A ram to you, ye Tempests of the Main. 

He tells us, in the language of religion. 

Prayer storm'd the skies, and ravish'd Charles from thence. 
As heaven itself is took by violence. 

And afterwards mentions one of the most awful passages of 
Sacred History. 

Other conceits there are, too curious to be quite omitted ; 

For by example most we sinn'd before. 

And, glass-like, clearness mix'd with frailty bore. 

How far he was yet from thinking it necessary to found his 
sentiments on Nature, appears from the extravagance of his 
fictions and hyperboles : 

1 701] DRYDEff. 189 

The winds, that never moderation knew, 
Afraid to blow too much, too faintly blew ; 
Or, out of breath with joy, could not enlarge 
Their straiten'd lungs. — 

It is no longer motion cheats your view ; 
As you meet it, the land approacheth you ; 
The land returns, and in the white it weaA 
The marks of penitence and sorrow bears. 

I know not whether this fancy, however little be its value, was 
not borrowed. A French poet read to Malherbe some verses, 
in which he represents France as moving out of its place to 
receive the king. " Though this," said Malherbe, " was in my 
time, I do not remember it." 

His poem on the Coronation has a more even tenour of 
thought. Some lines deserve to be quoted : 

You have already quench'd sedition's brand. 
And zeal, that burnt it, only warms the land ; 
The jealous sects that durst not trust their cause 
So far from their own will as to the laws, 
Him for their umpire and their synod take. 
And their appeal alone to Cssar make. 

Here may be found one particle of that old versification, of 
which, I believe, in all his works, there is not another : 

Nor is it duty, or our hope alone. 
Creates that joy, but i\i!iS. fruition. 

In the verses to the Lord Chancellor Clarendon, two years 
afterwards, is a conceit so hopeless at the first view, that few 
would have attempted it ; and so successfully laboured, that 
though at last it gives the reader more perplexity than pleasure, 
and seems hardly worth the study that it costs, yet it must 
be valued as a proof of a mind at once subtle and com- 
prehensive : ^ 

In opeti prospect iigthing bounds our eye. 
Until the earth seems join'd unto the sky : 
So in this hemisphere our utmost view 
Is only bounded by our king and you : 

190 DRYDEN. [1631— 

Our sight is limited where you are join'd, 
And beyond that no farther heaven can find. 
~- - - So well your virtues do with his agree, 

That, though your orbs of different greatness be. 
Yet both are for each other's use dispos'd, 
^) His to enclose, and yours to be enclos'd. 

Nor could another in your room have been, 
Except an emptiness had come between. 

The comparison of the Chancellor to the Indies leaves all 
resemblance too far behind it : 

And as the Indies were not found before 
Those rich perfumes which from the happy shore 
The winds upon their balmy wings convey'd, 
Whose guilty sweetness first their world betray'd ; 
So by your counsels we are brought to view 
A new and undiscover'd world in you. 

There is another comparison, for there is little else in the 
poem, of which, though perhaps it cannot be explained into 
plain prosaick meaning, the mind perceives enough to be 
delighted, and readily forgives its obscurity for its mag- 
nificence : 

How strangely active are the arts of peace, 
Whose restless motions less than wars do cease : 
Peace is not freed from labour, but from noise ; 
And war more force, but not more pains employs : 
Such is the mighty swiftness of your mind, 
That, like the earth's, it leaves our sense behind. 
While you so smoothly turn and rowl our sphere. 
That rapid motion does but rest appear. 
For as in nature's swiftness, with the throng 
Of flying orbs while ours is borne along, 
'^ AH seems at rest to the deluded eye, 

Mov'd by the soul of the same harmony ■ 
So carry'd on by our unwearied care. 
We rest in peace, and yet in motion share. 

To this succeed four lines, which perhaps afford Dryden's 
first attempt at those penetrating remarks on human nature, 
for which he seems to have been peculiarly formed : 

lyot] DRYDEN. 191 

Let envy then those crimes within you see, 

From which the happy never must be free ; 

Envy that does with misery reside, f) 

The joy and the revenge of ruin'd pride. 

Into this poem he seems to have collected all his powers; 
and after this he did not often bring upon his anvil such 
stubborn and unmalleable thoughts ; but, as a specimen of 
his abilities to unite the most unsociable matter, he has 
concluded with lines, of which I think not myself obliged 
to tell the meaning : 

Yet unimpair'd with labours, or with time. 
Your age but seems to a new youth to chmb. 
Thus heavenly bodies do our time beget, 
And measure change, but share no part of it : 
And still it shall without a weight increase. 
Like this new year, whose motions never cease. 
For since the glorious course you have begun 
Is led by Charles, as that is by the sun. 
It must both weightless and immortal prove, 
Because the centre of it is above. 

In the Annus Mirabilis he returned to the quatrain, 
which from that time he totally quitted, perhaps from this 
experience of its inconvenience, for he complains of its 
difficulty. This is one of his greatest attempts. He had 
subjects equal to his abilities, a great naval war, and the 
Fire of London. Battles have always been described in 
heroick poetry ; but a sea-fight and artillery had yet some- 
thing of novelty. New arts are long in the world before 
poets describe them ; for they borrow everything from their 
pre decessors, and commonly derive very little from_nature 
or from life. Boileau was the first French writer that had 
ever hazarded in verse the mention of modern war, or the 
effects of gunpowder. We, who are less afraid of novelty, 
had already possession of those dreadful images : Waller had 
described a sea-fight. Milton had not yet transferred the 
invention of fire-arms to the rebellious angels. \ 

192 DRYDEN. [1631— 

This poem is written with great diligence, yet does not fully 
answer the expectation raised by such subjects and such a 
writer. With the stanza of Davenant he has sometimes his 
vein of parenthesis, and incidental disquisition, and stops his 
narrative for a wise remark. 

The general fault is, that he affords more sentiment than 
description, and does not so much impress scenes upon the 
fancy, as deduce consequences and make comparisons. 

The initial stanzas have rather too much resemblance to the 
first lines of Waller's poem on the war with Spain ; perhaps 
such a beginning is natural, and could not be avoided without 
affectation. Both Waller and Dryden might take their hint 
from the poem on the civil war of Rome, Orbem jam 
totum, &c. 

Of the king collecting hip navy, he says. 

It seems as every ship their sovereign knows. 
His awful summons they so soon obey ; 

So hear the scaly herds when P roteu s blows. 
And so to pasture follow through the sea. 

It would not be hard to believe that Dryden had written 
the two first lines seriously, and that some wag had added the 
two latter in burlesque. Who would expect the lines that 
immediately follow, which are indeed perhaps indecently 
hyperbolical, but certainly in a mode totally different ? 

To see this fleet upon the ocean move. 

Angels drew wide the curtains of the skies ; 

And heaven, as if there wanted lights above. 
For tapers made two glaring comets rise. 

The description of the attempt at Bergen will afford a very 
compleat specimen of the descriptions in this poem : 

,, , , ■,.. f- And now approach'd their fleet from India, fraught 
' With all the riches of the rising sun : 

And precious sand from southern climates brought, 
The fatal regions where the war begun. 

I70I] DRYDEN. 193 

Like hunted c astors , conscious of their store, 

Their way-lai d wealth to Norway's coast they bring : 

Then first the N'orth's cold bosom spices bore, 
And winter brooded on the eastern spring. 

By the rich scent we found our perfum'd prey, 
Which, flank'd with rocks, did close in covert lie : 

And round about their murdering cannon lay. 
At once to threaten and invite the eye. 

Fiercer than cannon, and than rocks more hard, 
The English undertake th' unequal war : 

Seven ships alone, by which the port is barr'd, 
Besiege the Indies, and all Denmark dare. 

These fight like husbands, but like lovers those : 
These fain would keep, and those more fain enjoy ■ 

And to such height their frantic passion grows, 
That what both love, both hazard to destroy ; 

Amidst whole heaps of spices lights a ball, 
And now their odours arm'd against them fly : 

Some pr eciously bv shat tered porcelain fell, 
And some by aromatic splinters die. 

And though by tempests of the prize bereft. 
In heaven's inclemency some ease we find : 

Our foes wejujanquish'd by our valour leftjj 
And only yieldBd'tO the'seas and wmd. 

In this manner is the sublime too often mingled wiih the 
ridiculous. The Dutch seek a shelter for a wealthy fleet : this 
surely needed no illustration ; yet they must fly, not like all 
the rest of mankind on the same occasion, but like hunted 
castors ; and they might with strict propriety be hunted ; for 
we winded them by our noses — their perfumes betrayed them. 
The Husband and the Lover, though of more dignity than the 
Castor, are images too domestick to mingle properly with the 
horrors of war. The two quatrains that follow are worthy of 
the author. 

The account of the different sensations with which the two 
fleets retired, when the night parted them, is one of the fairest 
flowers of English poetry. 

194 DRYDEN. [1631— 

The night comes on, we eager to pursue 
The combat still, and they asham'd to leave : 

Till the last streaks of dying day withdrew. 
And doubtful moon-light did our rage deceive. 

In th' English fleet each ship resounds with joy. 
And loud applause of their great leader's fame : 

In fiery dreams the Dutch they still destroy, 
And, slumbering, smile at the imagin'd flame. 

, I Not so the Holland fleet, who, tired and done, 

Stretch'd on their decks like weary oxen lie : 

Faint sweats all down their mighty members run, 
(Vast bulks, which little souls but ill supply.) 

In dreams they fearful precipices tread. 
Or, shipwreck'd, labour to some distant shore : 

Or, in dark churches, walk among the dead ; 
They wake with horror, and dare sleep no more. 

It is a general rule in poetry, that all appropriated terms ot 
art should be sunk in general expressions, because poetry is to 
speak an universal language. This rule is still stronger with 
regard to arts not liberal, or confined to few, and therefore far 
removed from common knowledge; and of this kind, certainly, 
is technical navigation. Yet Dryden was of opinion that a 
sea-fight ought to be described in the nautical language ; and 
certainly, says he, as those who in a logical disputation keep to 
general terms would hide a fallacy, so those who do it in any 
poetical description would veil their ignorance. 

Let us then appeal to experience ; for by experience at last 
we learn as well what will please as what will profit. In the 
battle, his terms seem to have been blown away ; but he deals 
them liberally in the dock : 

So here some pick out bullets from the side. 
Some drive old okum thro' each seam and rift : 

Their left hand does the calking-iron guide. 
The rattling mallet with the right they lift. 

With boiling pitch another near at hand 

(From friendly Sweden brought) the seams instops : 

Which, well laid o'er, the salt-sea waves withstand, 
And shake them from the rising beak in drops. 

1 701] DRYDEN. j 19s 

1 I ;f . 

Some the galPd ropes with dawby marking blijid, ^ 

Or sear-cloth masts with strong tarpawling coats : 
To try new shrouds one mounts into the wind, 

And one below their ease or stiffness notes. 

I suppose here is not one term which every reader does not 
wish away. 

His digression to the original and progress of navigation, 
with his prospect of the advancement which it shall receive 
from the Royal Society, then newly instituted, may be con- 
sidered as an example seldom equalled of seasonable excursion 
and artful return. 

One line, however, leaves me discontented ; he says, that by 
the help of the philosophers, 

Instructed ships shall sail to quick commerce. 
By which remotest regions are allied — 

Which he is constrained to explain in a note, By a more exact 
measure of longitude. It had better become Dryden's learning 
and genius to have laboured science into poetry, and have 
shewn, by explaining longitude, that verse did not refuse the 
ideas of philosophy. 

His description of the Fire is painted by resolute medita- 
tion, out of a mind better formed to reason than to feel. The 
conflagration of a city, with all its tumults of concomitant 
distress, is one of the most dreadful spectacles which this world 
can offer to human eyes ; yet it seems to raise little emotion in 
the breast of the poet; he watches the flame coolly from 
street to street, with" now a reflection, and now a simile, till at 
last he meets the king, for whom he makes a speech, rather 
tedious in a time so busy ; and then follows again the progress 
of the fire. 

There are, however, in this part some passages that deserve 
attention ; as in the beginning : 

The diligence of trades and noiseful gain 
And luxury more late asleep were laid ; 

igS DRYDEN. [1631— 

All was the night's, and in her silent reign 
No sound the rest of Nature did invade 
In this deep quiet — 

The expression AH was the nighfs is taken from Seneca, 
who remarks on Virgil's line, , 

Omnia noctis erant placida composta qidete, 

that he might have concluded better, 

Omnia 7toctis erant. 

The following quatrain is vigorous and animated : 

The ghosts of traytors from the bridge descend 

With bold fanatick spectres to rejoice ; 
About the fire into a dance they bend, 

And sing their s abba th notes with feeble voice. 

His prediction of the improvements which shall be made 
in the new city, is elegant and poetical, and with an event, 
which Poets cannot always boast, has been happily verified. 
The poem concludes with a simile that might have better been 

Dryden when he wrote this poem, seems not yet fully to 
have formed his versification, or settled his system of propriety. 

From this time, he addicted himself almost wholly to the 
stage, to which, says he, my genius never much inclined me, 
merely as the most profitable market for poetry. By writing 
tragedies in rhyme, he continued to improve his diction and 
his numbers. According to the opinion of Harte, who had 
studied his works with great attention, he settled his principles 
of versification in 1676, when he produced the play of Aureng 
Zeb ; and according to his own account of the short time in 
which he wrote Tyrannick Love, and the State of Innocence, 
he soon obtained the full effect of diligence, and added facility 
to exactness. 

Rhyme has been so long banished from the theatre, that 
we know not its effect upon the passions of an audience ; but 

1 701] DRYDEN. 197 

it has this convenience, that sentences stand more independent 
on each other, and striking passages are therefore easily 
selected and retained. Thus the description of Night in the 
Indian Emperor, and the rise and fall of empire in the 
Conquest of Granada, are more frequently repeated than any 
lines in All for Love, or Don Sebastian. 

To search his plays for vigorous sallies, and sententious 
elegances, or to fix the dates of any little pieces which he 
wrote by chance, or by solicitation, were labour too tedious 
and minute. 

His dramatic labours did not so wholly absorb his thoughts, 
but that he promulgated the laws of translation in a preface to 
the English Epistles of Ovid ; one of which he translated 
himself, and another in conjunction with the Earl of Mulgrave. 

Absalom and Achitophel is a work so well known, that 
particular criticism is superfluous. If it be considered as a, 
poem political and controversial, it will be fourtd to comprises 
all the excellences of which the subject is susceptible ;/ 
acrimony of censure, elegance of praise, artful delineation of 1 
characters, variety and vigour of sentiment, happy turns of 
language, and pleasing harmony of numbers ; and all these 
raised to such a height as can scarcely be found in any other j^- 
English composition. 

It is_ not. howe ver, without faults ; some.lines are. inelegant 
or improper, and too many are irreligiously licentioHS. The 
origiiiaritfucture of the poem was defective ; allegories drawn 
to great length will, always break; Charles could not run 
continually parallel with David. 

The subject hadJikgwiseanqther^ inconvenience ; it admitted 
little imagery.^f-de5£ription, and a long- poetii of mere senti- 
ments easily becomes tedious; though all the parts are forcible, 
and every line kindles new rapture, the reader, if not relieved 
by the interposition of something that sooths the fancy, grows 
weary of admiration, and defers the rest. 

As an approach to historical truth was necessary, the action 

198 DRYDEN. [1631— 

and cataslxpphe were not in the poet's power; there is therefore 
an unpleasing disproportion between the beginning and Jhe 
end. We are alarmed by a faction formed out of many sects 
various in their principles, but agreeing in their purpose of 
mischief, formidable for their numbers, and strong by their 
supports, while the king's friends are few and weak. The 
chiefs on either part are set forth to view; but when 
expectation is at the height, the king makes a speech, and 

Henceforth a series of new times began. 

Who can forbear to think of an enchanted castle, with a 
wide moat and lofty battlements, walls of marble and gates of 
brass, which vanishes at once into air, when the destined 
knight blows his horn before it ? 

In the second part, written by Tate, there is a long insertion, 
which, for poignancy of satire, exceeds any part of the former. 
Personal resentment, though no laudable motive to satire, can 
add great force to general principles. Self-love is a busy 

The Medal, .written upon the same principles jnth Absalom 
and Achitophel, but upon a narrower planj gives less pleasure, 
though it discovers equal abilities in the writer. The super- 
structure cannot extend beyond the foundation ; a single 
character or incident cannot furnish as many ideas, as a series 
of events, or multiplicity of agents. This poem therefore, 
since time has left it to itself, is not much read, nor perhaps 
generally understood, yet it abounds with touches both of 
humorous and serious satire. The picture of a man whose 
progensions to mischief are such that his best actions are but 
inability of wickedness, is very skilfully delineated and strongly 

Power was his aim : but, thrown from that pretence, ) 
The wretch turn'd loyal in his own defence, > 

And malice reconcii'd him to his Prince. ) 

Him, in the anguish of his soul, he serv'd ; 
Rewarded faster still than he deserv'd : 

I70i] DRYDEN. 199 

Behold him now exalted into trust ; 
His counsels oft convenient, seldom just. 
Ev'n in the most sincere advice he gave. 
He had a grudging still to be a knave. 1 'j.-. ' 

The frauds he learnt in his fanatic yekrs, Av- - ■ I 
Made him uneasy in his lawful ggars ; ( ,,■; yp-'' ' r 

(fy At least as little honest as he cou'd : '' i 

And, like white..^ches, mischievously good. 
To this first bias, longingly, he leans ; 
And rather would be great by wicked means. 

The Threnodia, which, by a term I am afraid neither 
' authorized nor analogical, he calls Augustalis, is not among 
his happiest productions. Its first ancioBvious defect is the 
irregularity of its metre, to which the ears of that age, however, 
were accustomed. What is worse, it has neither tenderness 
nor dignity, it is neither magnificent nor pathetick. He seems 
to look round him for images which he cannot find, and what 
he has he distorts by endeavouring to enlarge them. He is, 
he says, petrified with grief; but the marble sometimes relents, 
and trickles in a joke. 

The sons of art all med'cines tr/d. 
And every noble remedy apply'd ; 

With emulation each essay'd 

His utmost skill ; nay more they prayd: 
Was never losing game with better conduct play'd. 

He had been a little inclined to merriment before upon the 
prayers. of a nation for their dying sovereign, nor was he 
serious enough to keep heathen fables out of his religion. 

With him th' innumberable croud of armed prayers — f 

Knock'd at the gates oTTieaven, and knock'd aloud ; 
The first well-meaning rude petitioners. 

All for his life assail'd the throne. 
All would have brib'd the skies by offering up their own. 
So great a throng not heaven itself could bar ; 
'Twas almost borne by force as in the giants war. 

The prayers, at least, for his reprieve were heard ; 
His death, like Hezekiah's, was deferr'd. 

There is throughout the composition a desire of splendor 
without wealth. In the conclusion he seems too much pleased 

200 DRYDEN. [1631— 

with the prospect of the new reign to have lamented his old 
master with much sincerity. 

He did not miscarry in this attempt for want of skill either 
in lyrick or elegiack poetry. His poem on the death of Mrs. 
Killigrew, is undoubtedly the noblest ode that our language 
ever has produced. The first part flows with a torrent of 
enthusiasm. Fervet immensusque ruit. All the stanzas indeed 
are not equal. An imperial crown cannot be one continued 
diamond ; the gems must be held together by some less 
valuable matter. 

In his first ode for Cecilia's day, which is lost in the splendor 
of the second, there are passages which would have dignified 
any other poet. The first stanza is vigorous and, elegant, 
though the word diapason is too technical, and the rhymes are 
too remote from one another. 

From harmony, from heavenly harmony. 

This universal frame began : 
When nature underneath a heap of jarring atoms lay, 

And could not heave her head, 
The tuneful voice was heard from high, 

Arise ye more than dead. 
Then cold and hot, and moist and dry, 
In order to their stations leap. 

And musick's power obey. 
From harmony, from heavenly harmony. 

This universal frame began : 

From harmony to harmony 
Through all the compass of the notes it ran, 

The diapason closing full in man. 

The conclusion is likewise striking, but it includes an image 
so awful in itself, that it can owe little to poetry ; and I could 
wish the antithesis of musick untuning had found some other 

As from the power of sacred lays 

The spheres began to move. 
And sung the great Creator's praise 

To all the bless'd above. 
So when the last and dreadful hour 
This crumbling pageant shall devour, 

I70I] DRYDEN. 201 

The trumpet shall be heard on high, 
The dead shall live, the living die, 
And musick shall untune the sky. 

Of his skill in Elegy he has given a specimen in his Eleonora, 
of which the following lines discover their author. 

Though all these rare endowments of the mind 

Were in a narrow space of life confin'd, 

The figure was with full perfection crown'd ; 

Though not so large an orb, as truly round : 

As when in glory, through the public place. 

The spoils of conquer'd nations were to pass, 

And but one day for triumph was allow'd. 

The consul was constrain'd his pomp to crowd ; 

And so the swift procession hurr/d on. 

That all, though not distinctly, might be shown :. 

So in the straiten'd bounds of life confin'd. 

She gave but glimpses of her glorious mind : 

And multitudes of virtues pass'd along ; 

Each pressing foremost in the mighty throng, 

Ambitious to be seen, and then make room 

For greater multitudes that were to come. 

Yet unemploy'd no minute slipp'd away ; I 

Moments were precious in so short a stay. ,1 /"V,. 

The haste of heaven to have her was so great, "j 

That some were single acts, though each compleat ; V ^^ 

And every act stood ready to repeat. J (\^^J^Jl"'-''' 

This piece, however, is not without its faults ; there is so 
much likeness in the initial comparison, that there is no 
illustratiofl. As a king would be lamented, Eleonora was 

As when some great and gracious monarch dies, 
Soft whispers, first, and mournful murmurs rise 
Among the sad attendants ; then the sound 
Soon gathers voice, and spreads the news around, 
Through town and country, till the dreadful blast 
Is blown to distant colonies at last ; 
Who, then, perhaps, were offering vows in vain. 
For his long life, and for his happy reign : 
So slowly by degrees, unwilling fame ) 

Did matchless Eleonora's fate proclaim, > 
Till publick as theloss the news became. J 

202 DRYDEN. [1631— 

This is little better tlian to say in praise of a shrub, that it 
is as green as a tree, or of a brook, that it waters a garden, as 
as river waters a country. 

Dryden confesses that he did not know the lady whom he 
celebrates; the praise being therefore inevitably general, 
fixes no impression upon the reader, nor excites any ten- 
dency to love, nor much desire of imitation. Knowledge of 
the subject is to the poet, what durable materials are to the 

The Religio Laici, which borrows its title from the Religio 
Medici of Browne, is almost the only work of Dryden which 
can be considered as a voluntary effusion ; in this, therefore, it 
might be hoped, that the full effulgence of his genius would be 
found. But unhappily the subject is rather argumentative 
than poetical : he intended only a specimen of metrical 

And this unpolish'd rugged verse I chose 
As fittest for discourse, and nearest prose. 

This, however, is a composition of great excellence in its 
kind, in which the familiar is very properly diversified with the 
solemn, and the grave with the humorous ; in which metre has 
neither weakened the force, nor clouded the perspicuity of 
argument ; nor will it be easy to find another example equally 
happy of this middle kind of writing, which, though prosaick 
in some parts, rises to high poetry in others, and neither towers 
to the skies, nor creeps along the ground. 

Of tlie same kind, or not far distant from it, is the Hind and 
Panther, the longest of all Dryden's original poems ; an alle- 
gory intended to comprise and to decide the controversy 
between the Romanists and Protestants. The scheme of the 
work is injudicious and incommodious ; for what can be more 
absurd than that one beast should counsel another to rest her 
faith upon a pope and council ? He seems well enough skilled 
in the usual topicks of argument, endeavours to shew the 

1 701] DRYDEN. • 203 

necessity of an infallible judge, and reproaches the Reformers 
with want of unity ; but is weak enough to ask, why since we 
see without knowing how, we may not have an infallible judge 
without knowing where. 

The Hind at one time is afraid to drink at the common 
brook, because she may be worried ; but walking home with 
the Panther, talks by the way of the Nicene Fathers, and at 
last declares herself to be the Catholic church. 

This absurdity was very properly ridiculed in the City Mouse 
and Country Mouse of Montague and Prior ; and in the detec- 
tion and censure of the incongruity of the fiction, chiefly 
consists the value of their performance, which, whatever 
reputation it might obtain by the help of temporary passions, 
seems to readers almost a century distant, not very forcible or 

Pope, whose judgement was perhaps a little bribed by the 
subject, used to mention this poem as the most correct specimen 
of Dry den's versification. It was indeed written when he had 
completely formed his manner, and may be supposed to exhibit, 
negligence excepted, his deliberate and ultimate scheme of 

We may therefore reasonably infer, that he did not approve 
the perpetual uniformity which confines the sense to couplets, 
since he has broken his lines in the initial paragraph. 

A milk-white Hind, immortal and unchang'd, 

Fed on the lawns, and in the forest rang'd ; 

Without unspotted, innocent within. 

She fear'd no danger, for she knew no sin. 

Yet had she oft been chac'd with horns and hounds 

And Scythian shafts, and many winged wounds 

Aim'd at her heart ; was often forc'd to fly, 

And doom'd to death, though fated not to die. 

These lines are lofty, elegant, and musical, notwithstanding 
the interruption of the pause, of which the effect is rather 
increase of pleasure by variety, than ofifence by ruggedness. 

To the first part it was his intention, he says, to give t/ie 

204 DRYDEN. [1631— 

majestich turn of heroick poesy ; and perhaps he might have 
executed his design not unsuccessfully had not an opportunity 
of satire, which he cannot forbear, fallen sometimes in his way. 
The character of a Presbyterian, whose emblem is the Wolf, is 
not very heroically majestick. 

More haughty than the rest, the wolfish race ' 

Appear with belly gaunt and famish'd face : 

Never was so deform'd a beast of grace. 

His ragged tail betwixt his legs he wears, ] 

Close clapp'd for shame; but his rough crest he rears, > 

And pricks up his predestinating ears. ; 

His general character of the other sorts of beasts that never 
go to church, though spritely and keen, has, however, not 
much of heroick poesy. 

These are the chief ; to number o'er the rest, 
And stand like Adam naming every beast, 
' ■ „ , ,, Were weary work ; nor will the Muse describe 
A slimvjporn, and sun-begotten tribe ; 
Who, far from steeples and thgir sacred sound, 
In fields their sullen conventicles found. 
These gross, half-animated, lumps I leave ; 
Nor can I think what thoughts they can conceive ; 
But if they think at all, 'tis sure no higher 
Than matter, put in motion, may aspire ; 
Souls that can scarce ferment their mass of clay ; ] 
So drossy, so divisible are they, > 

As would but serve pure bodies for allay : ) 

Such souls as shards produce, such.bcetle things 
As only buz to heaven with evening wings ; 
Strike in the dark, offending but by chance ; 
Such are the blindfold blows of ignorance. 
They know not beings, and but hate a name ; 
To them the Hind and Panther are the same. 

One more instance, and that taken from the narrative part, 
where style was more in his choice, will show how steadily he 
kept his resolution of heroick dignity. 

^ For when the herd, suffic'd, did late repair 

To ferney heaths, andToTheir forest laire, 



She made a mannerly excuse to stay. 

Proffering the Hind to wait her half the way : 

That, since the sky was dear, an hour of talk 

Might help her to beguile the tedious walk. 

With mudi good-wiU the motion was embrac'd. 

To chat awhile on their adventures past : 

Nor had the grateful Hind so soon forgot 

Her friend and fellow-sufferer in the plot. 

Yet, wondering how of late she grew estrang*-!. 

Her forehead cloudy and her count'nance chang'd. 

She thought this hour th' occasion would present 

To leam her secret cause of discontent, 

■\\Tiich well she hop'd, might be with ease redress'd. 

Considering her a well-bred ciifil beast. 

And more a gentlewoman than the rest. 

After some common talk what rumours ran. 

The lady of the spotted muff began. 

The second and third parts he professes to have reduced to 
diction more familiar and more suitable to dispute and con- 
versation ; the difference is not, however, very easily perceived ; 
the first has familiar, and the two others have sonorous, lines. 
The original incongruity runs through the whole ; the king is 
now Caesar, and now the Lyon ; and the name Pan is given to 
the Supreme Being. 

But when this constitutional absurdity is forgiven, the poem 
must be confessed to be written with great smoothness of 
metre, a wide extent of knowledge, and an abundant multi- 
plicity of images ; the controversy is embellished with pointed 
sentences, diversified by illustrations, and enlivened by saUies 
of invective. Some cf the facts to which aUosions are made, 
are now become obscure, and perhaps there may be many 
satirical passages little understood. 

As it was by its nature a work of defiance, a composition 
which would naturally be examined with the utmost acrimony 
of criticism, it was probably laboured with uncommon atten- 
tion ; and there are, indeed, few n^bgences in the subordinate 
parts. The original impropriety, and the subsequent im- 
popularity of the subject, added to the ridiculousness of its 
first elements, has stmk it into n^lect ; but it may be usefiilh- 

2o6 DRYDEN. [1631— 

studied, as an example of poetical ratiocination, in which the 
argument suffers little from the metre. 

In the poem on the Birth of the Prince of Wales, nothing is 
very remarkable but the^Qxorbitant adulation, and that insensi- 
bility of the precipice on whicKthe king was then standing, 
which the laureate apparently shared with the rest of the 
courtiers. A few months cured him of controversy, dismissed 
him from court, and made him again a play-wright and 

Of Juvenal there had been a translation by Stapylton, and 
another by Holiday; neither of them is very poetical. Stapyl- 
ton is more smooth, and Holiday's is more esteemed for the 
learning of his notes. A new version was proposed to the 
poets of that time, and undertaken by them in conjunction. 
The main design was conducted by Dryden, whose reputation 
was such that no man was unwilling to serve the Muses under 

The general character of this translation will be given, when 
it is said to preserve the wit, but to want the dignity of the 
original. The peculiarity of Juvenal is a mixture of gaiety 
and stateliness, of pointed sentences and declamatory grandeur. 
His points have not been neglected ; but his grandeur none of 
the band seemed to consider as necessary to be imitated, 
except Creech, who undertook the thirteenth satire. It is 
therefore perhaps possible to give a better representation of 
that great satirist, even in those parts which Dryden himself 
has translated, some passages excepted, which will never be 

With Juvenal was published Persius, translated wholly by 
Dryden. This work, though like all the other productions 
of Dryden it may have shining parts, seems to have been 
written merely for wages, in an uniform mediocrity, without 
any eager endeavour after excellence, or laborious effort of 
the mind. 

There wanders an opinion among the readers of poetry, 


. I 'f- , ' '/ 

1701] DRYDEN.h'j-,;, H C[^H.Jl..','^ ^""'207 

that one of these satires is an exercise of the school. Dryden\ 
says that he once translated it at school; but not that he 
preserved or published the juvenile performance. 

Not long afterwards he undertook perhaps the most arduous 
work of its kind, a translation of Virgil, for which he hajj 
shewn how well he was qualified by his version of the !^Ili9J 
and two episodes, one of Nisus and Euryalus, the other of 
Mezentius and Lausus. 

In the comparison of Homer and Virgil, the discriminative 
excellence of Homer is elevation and comprehension of 
thought, and that of Virgil is grace and splendor of diction. 
The beauties of Homer are therefore difficult to be lost, and 
those of Virgil difficult to be retained. The massy trunk of " 
senti ment is safe by its solidity, but the blossoms of elocution 
easily drop away. The author, having the choice of his own 
images, selects those which he can best adorn : the translator 
mustP"at all hazards, follow his original, and express thoughts 
which perhaps he would not have chosen. When to this Aj 
primary difficulty is added the inconvenience of a language so 
much inferior in harmony to the Latin, it cannot be expected 
that they who read the Georgick and the Eneid should be 
much delighted with any version. 

All these obstacles Dryden saw, and all these he determined 
to encounter. The expectation of his work was undoubtedly 
great; the nation considered its honour as interested in the 
event. One gave him the different editions of his author, and 
another helped him in the subordinate parts. The arguments 
of the several books were given him by Addison. 

The hopes of the publick were not disappointed. He 
produced, says Pope, the most noble and spirited translation 
that I know in any language. It certainly excelled whatever 
had appeared in English, and appears to have satisfied his 
friends, and, for the most part, to have silenced his enemies. 
Milbourne, indeed, a clergyman, attacked it ; but his outrages 
seem to be the ebullitions of a mind agitated by stronger 


2o8 DRYDEN. [1631— 

resentment than bad poetry can excite, and previously resolved 
not to be pleased. 

His criticism extends only to the Preface, Pastorals, and 
Georgicks ; and, as he professes to give his antagonist an 
opportunity of reprisal, he has added his own version of the 
first and fourth Pastorals, and the first Georgick. The world 
has forgotten his book ; but since his attempt has given him 
a place in literary history, I will preserve a specimen of his 
criticism, by inserting his remarks on the invocation before 
the first Georgick, and of his poetry, by annexing his own 

Ver. I. " W/ia( makes a plenteous harvest, when to turn. 
The fruitful soil, and when to sow the com — It's unlucky, they 
say, to stumble at the threshold, but what has a. plenteous harvest 
to do here ? Virgil would not pretend to prescribe rules for that 
which depends not on the husbandman's care, but the disposition 
of Heaven altogether. Indeed, the plenteous crop depends 
somewhat on the good method of tillage, and where the land's 
ill manur'd, the corn, without a miracle, can be but indifferent ; 
but the harvest may be good, which is its properest epithet, tho' 
the husbandman's skill were never so indifferent. The nex 
sentence is too literal, and when to plough had been Virgil's 
meaning, and intelligible to every body ; and when to sow the 
corn, is a needless addition." 

Ver. 3. " The care of sheep, of oxen, and of kine. And when 
to geld the lambs, and sheer the swine, would as well have fallen 
under the cura bourn, qui cultus habendo sit pecori, as Mr. D's 
deduction of particulars." 

Ver. 5. " The birth and genius of the frugal bee, I sing, 

Maecenas, and I sing to thee. — But where did' experientia 

ever signify birth and genius 1 or what ground was there 

for such a figure in this place? How much more manly 

is Mr. Ogylb/s version ! 

" What makes rich grounds, in what celestial signs, 
'Tis good to plough, and marry elms with vines. 

1701] DRYDEN. 2og 

What best fits cattle, what with sheep agrees, 
And several arts improving frugal bees, 
I sing, Macenas. 

Which four lines, tho' faulty enough, are yet rinyph more to« 
the purpose than Mr. D's six." ^-tvi ft. x':<-ti •_; >'■" 

Ver. 22. " From fields and mountains to my song repair. 'For 
patrium linquens nemus, sa ltusque L siSLir^^"^ well explained !" 

Ver. 23, 24. '■'■Inventor Pallas, of the fdtte7iing oil. Thou 
founder of the plough, and ploughman's toil / Written as 
if these had been Pallas' s invention. The ploughman's toil's 

Ver. 25. " — The shroud-like cypress- — Why shroud-like ? Is 
a cypress pulled up by the roots, which the sculpture in the last 
Eclogue fills Silvanus's hand with, so very like a shroud 1 Or 
did not Mr. D. think of that kind of cypress us'd often for 
scarves and hatbands at funerals formerly/orTor widow's vails, 
&c., if so, 'twas a deep good thought." 

Ver. 26. " — That wear the rural honours, and increase the 
year — What's meant by increasing the year 1 Did the gods 
or goddesses add more months, or days, or hours to it ? Or 
how can arva tueri — signify to wear rural honours ? Is this 
to translate, or abuse an author ? The next couplet are borrowed 
from Ogylby, I suppose, because less to the purpose than 

Ver. 33. " The patron of the world, and Rome's peculiar 
guard — Idle, and none of Virgil's, no more than the sense of 
the precedent couplet ; so again, he interpolates Virgil with that 
and the round circle of the year to guide powetful of blessings, 
which thou strew' st around. A ridiculous Latinism, and an 
impertinent addition; indeed the whole periodic but one piece 
of absurdity and nonsense, as those who lay it with the original 
must find." 

• Ver. 42, 43. " And Neptune shall resign the fasces of the sea. 
Was he cotuul or dictator there ? And watry virgins for thy bed 
shall strive. Both absurd interpolations'' 


210 DRYDEN. [1S31— 

Ver. 47, 48. " Where in the void of heaven a place is free. 
Ah, happy D — n, were that place for thee ! But where is that 
void ? Or what does our translator mean by it ? He knows 
what Ovid says God did, to prevent such a void in heaven ; 
perhaps, this was then forgotten : but Virgil talks more 

Ver. 49. " The scorpion ready to receive thy laws. No, he 
would not then have gotten out of his way so fast." 

Ver. 56. " The Proserpine affects her silent seat — What made 
her then so angry with Ascalaphus, for preventing her return ? 
She was now mus'd to Patience under the determinatiotis of 
Pate, rather than fond of her residence." 

Ver. 61, 2, 3. "Pity the poet's, and the ploughman's cares. 
Interest thy greatness in our mean affairs. And use thyself betimes 
to hear our prayers. Which is such a wretched perversion of 
Virgil's noUe thought as Vicars would have blush'd at; but Mr. 
Ogylby makes us some amends, by his better lines : 

" O wheresoe'er thou art, from thence incline, 
And grant assistance to my bold design ! 
Pity with me, poor husbandmen's affairs, 
And now, as if translated, hear our prayers. 

" This is sense, and to the picrpose : the other, pooi-mistahn 

Such were the strictures of Milboume, who found few 
abettors ; and of whom it may be reasonably imagined, that 
many who favoured his design were ashamed of his insolence. 

When admiration had subsided, the translation was more 
coolly examined, and found like all others, to be sometimes 
erroneous, and sometimes licentious. Those who could find 
faults, thought they could avoid them ; and Dr. Brady at- 
tempted in blank verse a translation of the Eneid, which, when 
dragged into tlje world, did not live long enough to cry. I 
have never seen it ; but that such a version there is, or has 
been, perhaps some old catalogue informed me. 

With not much better success, Trapp, when his Tragedy and 

I70I] DRYDEN. 211 

his Prelections had given him reputation, attempted another 
blank version of the Eneid ; to which, notwithstanding the sliglit 
regard with which it was treated, he had afterwards persever- 
ance enough to add the Eclogues and Georgicks. His book 
may continue its existence as long as it is the clandestine refuge 
of school-boys. 

Since the English ear has been accustomed to the mellifluence 
of Pope's numbers, and the diction of poetry has become more 
splendid, new attempts have been made to translate Virgil ; 
and all his works have been attempted by men better qualified 
to contend with Dryden. I will not engage myself in an 
invidious comparison by opposing one passage to another ; a 
work of which there would be no end, and which might be 
often offensive without use. 

It is not by comparing line with line that the merit of great 
works is to be estimated, but by their general effects and 
ultimate result. It is easy to note a weak line, and write one 
more vigorous in its place ; to find a happiness of expression 
in the original, and transplant it by force into the version : but 
what is given to the parts, may be subducted from the whole, 
and the reader may be weary, though the critick may commend. 
Works of imagination excel by their allurement and delight; 
by their power of attracting and detaining the attention. That 
book is good in vain, which the reader throws away. He only 
is the master, who keeps the mind in pleasing captivity ; whose 
pages are perused with eagerness, and in hope of new pleasure 
are perused again ; and whose conclusion is perceived with an 
eye of sorrow, such as the traveller casts upon departing day. 

By his proportion of this predomination I will consent that 
Dryden should be tried ; of this, which, in opposition to reason, 
makes Ariosto the darling and the pride of Italy ; of this, 
which, in defiance of criticism, continues Shakspeare the^ 
.sovereign of the drama . ' ---''' 

His last work was his Fables, in which he gave us the 
first example of a mode of writing which the Italians call 

P 2 , 

212 DRYDEN. [ifj'— 

refaccimento, a renovation of ancient writers, by modernizing 
their language. Thus the old poem of Boiardo has been 
newdressed by Domenichi and Berni. The works of Chaucer, 
upon which this kind of rejuvenescence has been bestowed by 
Dryden, require little criticism. The tale of the Cock seems 
hardly worth revival ; and the story of Palamon and Arcite, 
containing an action unsuitable to the times in which it is 
placed, can hardly be suflFered to pass without censure of the 
hyperbolical commendation which Dryden has given it in the 
general Preface, and in a poetical Dedication, a piece where 
his original fondness of remote conceits seems to have revived. 

Of the three pieces borrowed from Boccace, Sigismunda 
may be defended by the celebrity of the stor}'. Theodore 
and Honoria, though it contains not much moral, yet afforded 
opportimities of striking description. And Cymon was formerly 
a tale of such reputation, that, at the revival of letters, it was 
translated into Latin by one of the Beroalds. 

Whatever subjects employed his pen, he was still improving 
our measures and embellishing our language. 

In this volume are interspersed some short original poems, 
which, with his prologues, epilogues, and songs, may be com- 
prised in Congreve's remark, that even those, if he had written 
nothing else, would have entitled him to the praise of excellence 
in his kind. 

One composition must however be distinguished. The ode 
for St. Cecilia's Day, perhaps the last effort of his poetry, has 
been always considered as exhibiting the highest flight of fancy 
and the exactest nicety of art This is allowed to stand with- 
out a rival. If indeed there is any excellence beyond it, in 
some other of Dryden's works that excellence must be found. 
Compared with the Ode on ^Bligrew, it may be pronounced 
perhaps superior in the whole; but without any single part, 
equal to the first stanza of the other. ^ 

It is said to have cost Dryden a fortnight's Jabour ; but it 
does not want its negligences : some of the lines are without 

I70I] DRYDEN. 213 

correspondent rhymes ; a defect which I never detected but 
after an acquaintance of many years, and which the enthusiasm 
of the writer might hinder him from perceiving. 

His last stanza has less emotion than the former; but is 
not less elegant in the diction. The conclusion is vicious ; the 
musick of Timotheus, which raised a mortal to tlie skies, had 
only a metaphorical power ; that of Cecilia, which drew an 
angel down, had a real effect : the crown therefore could not 
reasonably be divided. 

In a general survey of Dryden's labours, he appears to have 
a mind very comprehensive by nature, and much enriched with 
acquired knowledge. His compositions are the effects of a 
vigorous genius operating upon large materials. 

The power that predominated in his intellectual operations, 
was rather strong reason than quick sensibility. Upon all 
occasions that were presented, he studied rather than felt, 
and produced sentiments not such as Nature enforces, but 
meditation supplies. With the simple and elemental passions, 
as they spring separate in the mind, he seems not much 
acquainted ; and seldom describes them but as they are 
complicated by the various relations of society, and confused \, »v'- 1 
in the tumults and agitations of life. ri 1 ;^: 

What he says of love may contribute to the explanation of '*' 
his character : 

Love various minds does variously inspire ; 
It stirs in gentle bosoms gentle fire, 
Like that of incense on the altar laid ; 
But raging flames tempestuous souls invade ; 
A fire which every windy passion blows. 
With pride it mounts, or with revenge it glows. 

Dryden's was not one of the gentle bosoms: Love, as it 
subsists in itself, with no tendency but to the person loved, 
and wishing only for correspondent kindness ; such love as 
shuts out all other interest ; the Love of the Golden Age, was 


214 DRYDEN. [1631— 

too soft and subtle to put his faculties in motion. He hardly 
conceived it but in its turbulent effervescence with some 
other desires ; when it was inflamed by rivalry, or obstructed 
by difficulties : when it invigorated ambition, or exasperated 

He is therefore, with all his variety of excellence, not often 
pathetick ; and had so little sensibility of the power of effusions 
purely natural, that he did not esteem them in others. Sim- 
plicity gave him no pleasure; and for the first part of his life 
he looked on Otway with contempt, though at last, indeed 
very late, he confessed that in his play there was Nature, which 
is the chief beauty. 

We do not always know our own motives. I am not certain 
whether it was not rather the difficulty which he found in 
exhibiting the genuine operations of the heart, than a servile 
submission to an injudicious audience, that filled his plays 
with false magnificence. It was necessary to fix attention ; 
and the mind can be captivated only by recollection, or by 
curiosity; by reviving natural sentiments, or impressing new 
appearances of things : sentences were readier at his call than 
images ; he could more easily fill the ear with some splendid 
novelty, than awaken those ideas that slumber in the heart. 

The favourite exercise of his mind was ratiocination ; and, 
that argument might not be too soon at an end, he delighted 
to talk of liberty and necessity, destiny and contingence ; 
these he discusses in the language of the s chool with so much 
profundity, that the terms which he uses are not always under- 
stood. It is indeed learning, but learning out of place. 

When once he had engaged himself in disputation, thoughts 
flowed in on either side : he was now no longer at a loss ; he 
had always objections and solutions at command; verbaque 
provisam rem — give him matter for his verse, and he finds 
without difficulty verse for his matter. 

In Comedy, for which he professes himself not naturally 
qualified, the mirth which he excites will perhaps not be found 

I70I] DRYDEN. 215 

so much to arise from any original humour, or peculiarity of 
character nicely distinguished and diligently pursued, as from , 
incidents and circumstances, artifices and surprises; from jests ' 
of action rather than of sentiment. What he had of humorous 
or passionate, he seems to have had not from nature, but from 
other poets ; if not always as a plagiary, at least as an imitator. j. 

Next to argument, his delight was in wild and daring sallies 
of sentiment, in the irregular and excentrick violence of wit. 
He delighted to tread upon the brink of meaning, where light 
and darkness begin to mingle ; to approach the precipice of 
absurdity, and hover over the abyss of unideal vacancy. This ~ 
inclination sometimes produced nonsense, which he knew ; as. 

Move swiftly, sun, and fly a lover's pace, ^ •.,,.,.' 

Leave weeks and months behind thee in thy race. >&'"■" 

Amariel flies 
To guard thee from the demons of the air ; 
My flaming sword above them to display, 
All keen, and ground upon the edge of day. 

And sometimes it issued in absurdities, of which perhaps he 
was not conscious : 

Then we upon our orb's last verge shall go, (\\- ■■'»'■ ■ i. ' 

And see the ocean leaning on the sky ; 1 > ^.. > 

From thence our rolling neighbours we shall know, j> , ^^ cUi "fj-- 
And on the lunar world securely pry. ~ , f 

These lines have no meaning ; but may we not say, in imita- 
tion of Cowley on another book, 

'Tis so like sense 'twill serve the turn as well ? 

This endeavour after the grand and the new, produced many 
sentiments either great or bulky, and many images, either just 
or splendid : 

I am as free as Nature first made man, 1 
Ere the base laws of servitude began, V 

When wild in woods the noble savage ran. J 


2i6 DRYDEN. [1631— 

— ^"Tis but because the Living death ne'er knew, 
They fear to prove it as a thing that's new : 
Let me th' experiment before you try, 
I'll show you first how easy 'tis to die. 

— There with a for est of the ir darts he strove. 

And stood like Ca^dneus defying Jove ; 

With his broad sword the boldest beating down, 

While Fate grew pale lest he should win the town, 
f And turn'd the iron leaves of his dark book 
v To make new dooms, or mend what it mistook. 

— I beg no pity for this mouldering clay ; 

For if you give it burial, there it takes 

Possession of your earth ; 

If burnt, and scattered in the air, the winds 

That strew my dust diffuse my royalty, 

And spread me o'er your clime ; for where one atom 

Of mine shall light, know there Sebastian reigns. 

Of these quotations the two first may be allowed to be great, 
the two latter only tumid. 

Of such selection there is no end. I will add only a few 
more passages ; of which the first, though it may perhaps not 
be quite clear in prose, is not top obscure for poetry, as the 
meaning that it has is noble : 

No, there is a necessity in Fate, 
Why still the brave bold man is fortunate ; 
He keeps his object ever fuU in sight, 
And that assurance holds him firm and right ; 
True, 'tis a narrow way that leads to bliss, \ 

But right be£i^ there is no precipice ; > 

Fear makes men look aside, and so their footing miss. ) 

Of the images which the two following citations afford, the 
first is elegant, the second magnificent ; whether either be just, 
1 et the reader judge : 

What precious drops are these, 

-) Which silently each other's track pursue, 

. t Bright as young diamonds in their infant dew ? . 

J7oiJ DRYDEN. 217 

— Resign your castle — 
— Enter, brave Sir ; for when you speak the word, 
The gates shall open of their own accord ; 
The genius of the place its Lord shall meet, / 

And bow its towery forehead at your feet. ""ft'i-i ' 

These bursts of extravagance, Dryden calls the Dalilahs of 
the Theatre ; and owns that many noisy lines of Maxamin and 
Almanzor call out for vengeance upon him ; but I knew, says 
he, that they were bad enough to please, even when I wrote them. 
There is surely reason to suspect that he pleased himself as 
well as his audience ; and that these, like the harlots of other 
men, had his love, though not his approbation. 

He had sometimes faults of a less generous and splendid 
kind. He makes, like almost all other poets, very frequent 
use of mythology, and sometimes connects religion and fable 
too closely without distinction. 

He descends to display his knowledge with pedantick os- 
tentation ; as when, in translating Virgil, he says, tack to the 
larboard — and veer starboard; and talks, in another work, of 
virtue spooming before the wind. His vanity now and then 
betrays his ignorance : 

They Nature's king through Nature's opticks view'd ; 
Revers'd they view'd him lessen'd to their eyes. 

He had heard of reversing a telescope, and unluckily reverses 
the object. 

He is sometimes unexpectedly mean. Wlien he describes 
the Supreme Being as moved by prayer to stop the Fire of 
London, what is his expression ? 

A hollow crystal pyramid he takes. 

In fi rmamenta l waters dipp'd above, 
Of this a ^ro^fX' extinguisher he makes. 

And hoods the flames that to their quarry strove. 

When he describes the Last Day, and the decisive tribunal, he 
intermingles this image : 

&i8 DRYDEN. [1631— 

When rattling bones together fly, 
From the four quarters of the sky. 

Tt was indeed never in his power to resist the temptation of 
a jest. In his Elegy on Cromwell : 

No sooner was the Frenchman's cause embrac'd, 
Than the light Monsieur the grave Don outweigh'd ; 
His fortune turn'd the scale — 

He had a vanity, unworthy of his abilities, to shew, as may be 
suspected, the rank of the company with whom he lived, by the 
use of French words, which had then crept into conversation ; 
such as fraicheur for coolness, fougue for turbulence, and a few 
more, none of which the language has incorporated or retained. 
They continue only where they stood first, perpetual warnings 
to future innovators. 

These are his faults of affectation ; his faults of negligence 
are beyond recital. Such is the unevenness of his compositions, 
that ten lines are seldom found together without something of 
which the reader is ashamed. Dryden was no rigid judge of 
his own pages ; he seldom struggled after supreme excellence, 
but snatched in haste what was within his reach ; and when he 
could content others, was himself contented. He did not 
keep present to his mind an idea of pure perfection ; nor 
compare his works, such as they were, with what they might 
be made. He knew to whom he should be opposed. He 
had more musick than Waller, more vigour than Denham, and 
more nature than Cowley; and from his contemporaries he 
was in no "danger. Standing therefore in the highest place 
he had no care to rise by contending with himself; but while 
there was no name above his own, was willing to enjoy fame 
on the easiest terms. 

He was no lover of labour. What he thought sufficient, he 
did not stop to make better; and allowed himself to leave 
many parts unfinished, in confidence that the good lines would 
overbalance the bad. What he had once written, he dismissed 

I70I] DRYDEN. 219 

from his thoughts ; and, I believe, there is no example to be 
found of any correction or improvement made by him after 
publication. The hastiness of his productions might be the 
effect of necessity ; but his subsequent neglect could hardly 
have any other cause than impatience of study. 

What can be said of his versification, will be little more than 
a dilatation of the praise given it by Pope : 

Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join ) ■ ;iv 

The varying verse, the full-resounding line, '~~ > f>\'\\^ 

The long majestick march, and energy divine. ) " '>- 

Some improvements had been already made in English 
numbers ; but the full force of our language was not yet felt ; 
the verse that was smooth wai^commonly feeble. If Cowley 
had sometimes a finished line, he had it by chance. Dryden 
knew how to chuse the flowing and the sonorous words ; to 
vary the pauses, and adjust the accents ; to diversify the 
cadence, and yet preserve the smoothness of his metre. 

Of Triplets andAlexandrines, though he did not introduce 
the use, he established it The triplet has long subsisted 
among us. Dryden seems not to have traced it higher than to 
Chapman's Homer; but it is to be found in Phaer's Virgil, 
written in the reign of Mary, and in Hall's Satires, published 
five years before the death of Elizabeth. ^v. ^ »-(Vj:^^' 

The Alexandrine was, I believe, first used ^^ by Spenser, for 
the sake of closing his stanza with a fuller sound. We had 
a lo nger me a sure of fourteen syllabl es, into which the Eneid 
was translated by Phaer, and other works of the ancients by 
other writers; of which Chapman's Iliad was, I believe, the 

The two first lines of Phaer's third Eneid will exemplify this 
measure : 

When Asia's state was overthrown, and Priam's kingdom stout, 
■ All giltless, by the power of gods above was rooted out. 

220 DRYDEN. [1631— 

As these lines had their break, or cxsura, always at the 
eighth syllable, it was thought, in time, commodious to divide 
them; and quatrains of lines, alternately, consisting of eight 
and six syllables, make the most soft and pleasing of our lyrick 
measures ; as, 

Relentless Time, destroying power, 

Which stone and brass obey, 
Who giv'st to every flying hour 

To work some new decay. 

In the Alexandrine, when its power was once felt, some 
poems, as Drayton's Polyolbion, were wholly written ; and 
sometimes the measures of twelve and fourteen syllables were 
interchanged with one another. Cowley was the first that 
inserted the Alexandrine at pleasure among the heroick 
lines of ten syllables, and from him Dryden professes to have 
adopted it. 

The Triplet aiid Alexandrine are not universally approved. 
Swift always censured them, and wrote some lines to ridicule 
them. In examining their propriety, it is to be considered 
that the essence of verse is regularity, and its ornament is 
variety. To write verse, is to dispose syllables and sounds 
harmonically by some known and settled rule; a rule however 
lax enough to substitute similitude for identity, to admit change 
without breach of order, and to relieve the ear without disap- 
pointing it. Thus a Latin hexameter is formed from dactyls 
and spondees differently combined ; the English heroick admits 
of acute or grave syllables variously disposed. The Latin 
never deviates into seven feet, or exceeds the number of 
seventeen syllables ; but the English Alexandrine breaks the 
^ lawful bounds, and surprises _the reader with two syllables 
'^^ mor e than he expected. ~ 

The effect of the Triplet is the same; the ear has been 
accustomed to expect a new rhyme in every couplet; but is 
on a sudden surprised with three rhymes together, to which 
the reader could not accommodate his voice, did he not obtain 

I70I] DRYDEN. 221 

notice of the change from the braces of the margins. Surely 
there is something unskilful in the necessity of such mechanical 

Considering the metrical art simply as a science, and con- 
sequently excluding all casualty, we must allow that Triplets 
and Alexandrines, inserted by caprice, are interruptions of thalj 
constancy to which science Jsptres: — And though the variety 
which they produce may very' justly be desired, yet to makeU, i'- 
our poetry exact, there ought to be some stated mode of 
admitting them. 

But till some such regulation can be formed, I wish them 
still to be retained in their present state. They are sometimes 
grateful to the reader, and sometimes convenient to the poet. 
Fenton was of opinion that Dryden was too liberal and Pope 
too sparing in their use. 

The rhymes of Dryden are commonly just, and he valued 
himself for his readiness in finding them ; but he is sometimes 
open to objection.- 

It is the common practice of our poets to end the second 
line with a weak or grave syllable : m - V'^ ' 

Together o'er the Alps methinks we fly, ] 

Fill'd with ideas of fair liafy. \ 

Dryden sometimes puts the weak rhyme in the first : 

Laugh all the powers that favour tyranny, 
And all the standing army of the sky. 

Sometimes he concludes a period or paragraph with the 
first line of a couplet, which, though the French seem to do it 
without irregularity, always displeases in English poetry. 

The Alexandrine, though much his favourite, is not always 
very diligently fabricated by him. It invariably requires a 
break at the sixth syllable; a rule which the modern French 
poets never violate, but which Dryden sometimes neglected : 

And with paternal thunder vindicates his throne. 


222 DRYDEN. [1631— 

Of Dryden's works it was said by Pope, that he could select 
from them better specimens of every mode of poetry than any other 
English writer could supply. Perhaps no nation ever produced 
a writer that enriched his language with such variety of models. 
To him we owe the improvement, perhaps the completion of 
our metre, the refinement of our language, and much of the 
/ correctness of our sentiments. By him we were taught sapere 
&' fari, to think naturally and express forcibly. Though Davis 
has reasoned in rhyme before him, it may be perhaps main- 
j-S.f^ tained that he was the first who joined argument with poetry. 
He shewed us the true bounds of a translator's liberty. What 
was said of Rome, adorned by Augustus, may be applied by 
an easy metaphor to English pioetry embellished by Dryden, 
lateritiam invenit, marmoi'eam reliquit, he found it brick, and 
he left it marble. 

The invocation before the Georgicks is here inserted from 
Mr. Milbourne's version, that, according to his own proposal, 
his verses may be compared with those which he censures. 

What makes the richest tilth, beneath what signs 

To plough, and when to match your elms and vines; 

What care -vixX^a. flocks and what with herds agrees, 

And all the management of frugal bees, 

I sing, McBcenas I Ye immensely clear. 

Vast orbs of light which guide the rolling year ; 

Bacchus, and mother Ceres, if by you 

We fat'ning corn for hungry mast pursue. 

If, taught by you, we first the cluster prest, 

And thin cold streams with spritely juice refresht. 

Y^ fawns the present numens of the field, 

Wood nymphs ZMdifawtts, your kind assistance yield, 

Your gifts I sing ! and thou, at whose fear'd stroke 

From rending earth the fiery courser broke, 

Great Neptune, O assist my artful song ! 

And thou to whom the woods and groves belong, 

Whose snowy heifers on her flow'ry plains 

In mighty herds the Ccean Isle maintains ! 

Pan, happy shepherd, if thy cares divine, 

E'er to improve tny Mc^nalus incline ; 

Leave thy Lycaan wood and native grove, 

And with thy lucky smiles our work approve ! 

1 701] DRYDEN. 223 

Be Pallas too, sweet oil's inventor, kind ; 
And he, who first the crooked plough design'd ! 
Sylvanus, god of all the woods appear, 
Whose hands a new-drawn tender cypress bfcar ! 
Ye gods and goddesses who e'er with love 
Would guard our pastures, and our fields improve ! 
You, who new plants from unsown lands supply ; 
And with condensing clouds obscure the sky, 
And drop 'em softly thence in fruitful showers, 
Assist my enterprize, ye gentler powers ! 

And thou, great Ccesar ! though we know not yet 
Among what gods thou'lt fix thy lofty seat, 
Whether thou'lt be the kind tutelar god 
Of thy own Rome ; or with thy awful nod, 
Guide the vast world, while thy gi-eat hand shall bear ] 
The fruits and seasons of the turning year, > 

And thy bright brows thy mother's myrtles wear : ) 
Whether thou'lt all the boundless ocean sway. 
And sea-men only to thyself shall pray, 
Thule, the farthest island, kneel to thee, 
And, that thou may'st her son by marriage be, 
Tethys will for the happy purchase yield 
To make a dowry of her watry field ; 
Whether thou'lt add to heaven a brighter sign, 
And o'er the summer months serenely shine ; 
Where between Cancer and Erigone, 
There yet remains a spacious room for thee. 
Where the hot Scorpion too his arms declines, 
And more to thee than half his arch resigns ; 
Whate'er thou'lt be : for sure the realms below 
No just pretence to thy command can show ; 
No such ambition sways thy vast desires, 
Though Greece her own Elysian fields admires. 
And now, at last, contented Proserpine 
Can all her mother's earnest prayers decline. 
Whate'er thou'lt be, O guide our gentle course. 
And with thy smiles our bold attempts enforce ; 
With me th' unknowing rustic^ wants relieve, 
And, though on earth, our sacred vows receive ! 

Mr. Dryden, having received from Rymer his Remarks on 
the Tragedies of the last Age, wrote observations on the blank 
leaves ; which, having been in the possession of Mr. Garrick, 
are by his favour communicated to the publick, that no particle 
of Dryden may be lost. 

224 DRYDEN. [1631— 

" That we may the less wonder why pity and terror are not 
now the only springs on wMch our tragedies move, and that 
Shakspeare maybe more excused^ Rapip^ confesses that the 
French tragedies now all run on the tendre ; and gives the 
reason, because love is the passion which most predominates 
in our souls, and that therefore the passions represented be- 
come insipid, unless they are conformable to the thoughts of 
the audience. But it is to be concluded that this passion 
works not now amongst the French so strongly as the other two 
did amongst the ancients. Amongst us, who have a stronger 
genius for writing, the operations from the writing are much 
stronger : for the raising of Shakspeare's passions is more from 
the excellency of the words and thoughts, than the justness of 
the occasion ; and if he has been able to pick single occasions, 
he has never founded the whole reasonably : yet, by the genius 
of poetry in writing, he has succeeded. 

"Rapin attributes more to the didio, that is, to the words 
and discourse of a tragedy, than Aristotle has done, who places 
them in the last rank of beauties ; perhaps, only last in order, 
because they are the last product of the design, of the dis- 
position or connection of its parts ; of the characters, of the 
manners of those characters, and of the thoughts proceeding 
from those manners. Rapin's words are remarkable : 'Tis 
not the admirable intrigue, the surprising events, and extra, 
ordinary incidents, that make the beauty of a tragedy ; 'tis 
the discourses, when they are natural and passionate : so are 

" The parts of a poem, tragick or heroick, are, 

" I. The fable itself. 

"2. The order or manner of its contrivance, in relation of 
the parts to the whole. 

" 3. The manners, or dgcency of the characters, in speaking 
or acting what is proper for them, and proper to be shewn by 
the poet. 

" 4. The thoughts which express the manners. 

1 701] DRYDEN. 22S 

" 5. The words which express those thoughts. 

" In the last of these, Homer excels Virgil ; Virgil all other 
ancient poets ; and Shakspeare all modem poets. 

" For the second of these, the order : the meaning is, that a 
fable ought to have a beginning, middle, and an end, all just 
and natural : so that that part, e.g. which is the middle, could 
not naturally be the beginning or end, and so of the rest : all 
depend on one another, like the links of a curious chain. If 
terror and pitj^i^are vonly to be raised, certainly this author 
follows Aristotle's rules, and Sophocles' and Euripides's ex- 
ample : but joy may be raised too, and that doubly ; either by 
seeing a wicked man punished, or a good man at last fortu- 
nate; or perhaps indignation, to see wickedness prosperous 
and goodness depressed : both these may be profitable to 
the end of tragedy, reformation of manners; but the last 
improperly,! onhc-aS" It Tegetsypity in the audience: though 
Aristotle, I confess, places tragedies of this kind in the second 

"He who undertakes to answer this excellent critique of 
Mr. Rymer, in behalf of our English poets against the Greek, 
ought to do it in this manner. Either by yielding to hirii the 
greatest part of what he contends for, which consists in this, 
that the iivQoq, i.e. the design and conduct of it, is more con- 
ducing in the Greeks to those ends of tragedy, which Aristotle 
and he propose, namely, to cause terror and pity ; yet the 
granting this does not set the Greeks above the English 
poets. , 

" But the answerer ought to prove two things : first, that the 
fable is not the greatest master-piece of a tragedy, though it 
be the foundation of it. 

"Secondly, That other ends as suitable to the nature of 
tragedy may be found in the English, which were not in the 

" Aristotle places the fable first ; not quoad dignitatem, sed 
quoad fundamentum : for a fable, never so movingly contrived 


225 DRYDEN. [1631- 

to those ends of his, pity and terror, will operate nothing on 
our affections, except the characters, manners, thoughts, and 
' words are, suitable. 

" So that it remains for Mr. Rymer to prove, that in all 
those, or the greatest part of them, we are inferior to Sophocles 
and Euripides : and this he has offered at, in some measure ; 
but, I think, a little partially to the ancients. 

" For the fable itself; 'tis in the English more adorned with 
episodes, and larger than in the Greek poets ; consequently 
more diverting. For, if the action be but one, and that plain, 
without any counter-turn of design or episode, i.e, under-plot, 
how can it be so pleasing as the English, which have both 
under-plot and a turned design, which keeps the audience in 
expectation of the catastrophe? whereas in the Greek poets 
we see through the whole design at first 

" For the characters, they are neither sa many nor so various 
in Sophocles and Euripides, as in Shakspeare and Fletcher; 
only they are more adapted to those ends of tragedy which 
Aristotle commends to us, pity and terror. 

" The manners flow from the characters, and consequently 
must partake of their advantages and disadvantages. 

"The thoughts and words, which are the fourth and fifth 
beauties of tragedy, are certainly more noble and more poetical 
in the English than in the Greek, which must be proved by 
comparing them, somewhat more equitably than Mr. Rymer 
has done. 

" After all, we need not yield that the English way is less 
conducing to move pity and terror, because they often shew 
virtue oppressed and vice punished : where they do not both, 
or either, they are not to be defended. 

" And if we should grant that the Greeks performed this 
better, perhaps it may admit of dispute, whether pity and 
terror are either the prime, or at least the only ends of tragedy. 
' " 'Tis not enough that Aristotle has said so ; for Aristotle 
drew his models of tragedy from Sophocles and Euripides ; 

1 70 1] DRYDEN. 227 

and, if he had seen ours, might have changed his mind. And 
chiefly we have to say (what I hinted on pity and terror, in 
the last paragraph save one), that the punishment of vice 
and reward of virtue are the most adequate ends of tragedy, 
because most conducing to good example of life. Now pity 
is not so easily raised for a criminalj^nd the ancient tragedy 
always represents its chief person suchi as it is for an innocent 
man ; and the suffering of innocence^nd punishment of the 
offender is of the nature of English tragedy : contrarily, in 
the Greek, innocence is unhappy often, and the offender 
escapes. Then we are not touched with the sufferings of any 
sort of men so much as of lovers ; and this was almost un- 
known to the ancients : so that they neither administered 
poetical justice, of which Mr. Rymer boasts, so well as we ; 
neither knew they the best common-place of pity, which is 

" He therefore unjustly blames us for not building on what 
the ancients left us ; for it seems, upon consideration of the 
premises, that we have wholly finished what they began. 

" My judgement on this piece is this, that it is extremely 
learned ; but that the author of it is better read in the Greek 
than in the English poets : that all writers ought to study this 
critique, as the best account I have ever seen of the ancients : 
that the model of tragedy he has here given, is excellent, and 
extreme correct ; but that it is not the only model of all 
tragedy, because it is too much circumscribed in plot, cha- 
racters, &c. ;. and lastly, that we may be taught here justly to 
admire and imitate the ancients, without giving them the 
preference with this author, in prejudice to our own country. 

" Want of method in this excellent treatise, makes the 
thoughts of the author sometimes obscure. 

" His meaning, that pity and terror are to be moved, is, that 
they are to be moved as the means conducing to the ends of 
tragedy, which are pleasure and instruction. 

"And these two ends may be thus distinguished. The chief 

Q 2 

228 DRYDEN. [1631— 

end of the poet is to please ; for his immediate reputation 
depends on it. 

" The great end of the poem is to instruct, which is per- 
formed by making pleasure the vehicle of that instruction ; for 
poesy is an art, and all arts are made to profit. Rapin. 

" The pity, which the poet is to labour for, is for the criminal, 
not for those_or him whom he has murdered, or who have been 
the occasion of the tragedy. The terror is likewise in the 
punishment of the same criminal ; who, if he be represented 
too great an offender, will not be pitied : if altogether innocent, 
his punishment will be unjust. 

" Another obscurity is, where he says Sophocles perfected 
tragedy by introducing the third actor; that is, he meant, three 
kinds of action ; one company singing, or another playing on 
the musick ; a third dancing. 

To make a true judgement in this competition betwixt the 
Greek poets and the English, in tragedy : 

Consider, first, how Aristotle has defined a tragedy. 
Secondly, what he assigns the end of it to be. Thirdly, what 
he thinks the beauties of it. Fourthly, the means to attain the 
end proposed. 

Compare the Greek and English tragick poets justly, and 
without partiality, according to those rules. 

"Then secondly, consider whether Aristotle has made a just 
definition of tragedy ; of its parts, of its ends, and of its 
beauties ; and whether he, having not seen any others but 
those of Sophocles, Euripides, &c. had or truly could determine 
what all the excellences of tragedy are, [and wherein they 

" Next shew in what ancient tragedy was deficient : for 
example, in the narrowness of its plots, and fewness of persons, 
and try whether that be not a fault in the Greek poets ; and 
whether their excellency was so great, when the variety was 
visibly so little ; or whether what they did was not very easy 
to do. 

I701] DRYDEN. 229 

" Then make a judgement on what the English have added to 
their beauties : as, for example, not only more plot, but also 
new passions ; as, namely, that of love, scarce touched on by 
the ancients, except in this one example of Phsedra, cited by 
Mr. Rymer ; and in that how short they were of Fletcher 1 

" Prove also that love, being an heroick passion, is fit for 
tragedy, which cannot be denied, because of the example 
alleged of Phaedra; and how far Shakspeare has outdone 
them in friendship, &c. 

"To return to the beginning of this enquiry; consider if 
pity and terror be enough for tragedy to move : and I believe, 
upon a true definition of tragedy, it will be found that its work 
extends farther, and that it is to reform manners, by a delightful 
representation of human life in great persons, by way of 
dialogue. If this be true, then not only pity and terror are to 
be moved, as the only means to bring us to virtue, but 
generally love to virtue and hatred to vice ; by shewing the 
rewards of one, and punishments of the other ; at least, by 
rendering virtue always amiable, tho' it be shewn unfortunate ; 
and vice detestable, though it be shewn triumphant. 

" If, then, the encouragement of virtue and discouragement 
of vice be the proper ends of poetry in tragedy, pity and 
terror, though good means, are not the only. For all the 
passions, in their turns, are to be set in a ferment : as joy, 
anger, love, fear, are to be used as the poet's commonplaces ; 
and a general concernment for the principal actors is to be 
raised, by making them appear such in their characters, their 
words, and actions, as will interest the audience in their 

" And if, after all, in a larger sense, pity comprehends this 
concernment for the good, and terror includes detestation for 
the bad, then let us consider whether the English have not 
answered this end of tragedy, as well as the ancients, or perhaps 

" And here Mr. Rymer's objections against these plays are 


DRYDEN. [1631— 

to be impartially weighed, that we may see whether they are of 
weight enough to turn the balance against our countrymen. 

" 'Tis evident those plays, which he arraigns, have moved 
both those passions in a high degree upon the stage. 

" To give the glory of this away from the poet, and to place 
it upon the actors, seems unjust. 

" One reason is, because whatever actors they have found, 
the event has been the same ; that is, the same passions have 
been always moved : which shews, that there is something of 
force and merit in the plays themselves, conducing to the 
design of raising these two passions : and suppose them ever 
to have been excellently acted, yet action only adds grace, 
vigour, and more life, upon the stage ; but cannot give it 
wholly where it is not first. But secondly, I dare appeal to 
those who have never seen them acted, if they have not found 
these two passions moved within them : and if the general 
voice will carry it, Mr. Rymer's prejudice will take off his 
single testimony. 

" This, being matter of fact, is reasonably to be established 
by this appeal ; as if one man says 'tis night, the rest of the 
world conclude it to be day ; there needs no farther argument 
against him, that it is so. 

" If he urge, that the general taste is depraved, his arguments 
to prove this can at best but evince that our poets took not 
the best way to raise those passions; but experience proves 
against him, that these means, which they have used, have been 
successful, and have produced them. 

" And one reason of that success is, in my opinion, this, that 
Shakspeare and Fletcher have written to the genius of the age 
and nation in which they lived ; for though nature, as he objects, 
is the same in all places, and reason too the same ; yet the 
climate, the age, the disposition of the peopk, to whom a poet 
writes, may be so different, that what pleased the Greeks would 
not satisfy an English audience. 

" And if they proceeded upon a foundation of truer reason 

I7CI] DRYDEN. 231 

to please the Athenians than Shakspeare and Fletcher to please 
the English, it only shews that the Athenians were a more 
judicious people ; but the poet's business is certainly to please 
the audience. 

" Whether our English audience have been pleased hitherto 
with acorns, as he calls it, or with bread, is the next question ; 
that is, whether the means which Shakspeare and Fletcher have 
used in their plays to raise those passions before named, be 
better applied to the ends by the Greek poets than by them. 
And perhaps we shall not grant him this wholly : let it be 
granted that a writer is not to run down with the stream, or to 
please the people by their own usual methods, but rather to 
reform their judgements, it still remains to prove that our 
theatre needs this total reformation. 

" The faults, which he has found in their designs, are rather 
wittily aggravated in many places than reasonably urged ; and 
as much may be returned on the Greeks, by one who were as 
witty as himself. 

" 2. They destroy not, if they are granted, the foundation of 
the fabrick ; only take away from the beauty of the symmetry : 
for example, the faults in the character of the King and No- 
king are not as he makes them, sucTi as render him detestable^ 
but only imperfections which accompany human nature, and 
are for the most part excused by the violence of his love ; so 
that they destroy not our pity or concernment for him : this 
answer may be applied to most of his objections of that 

" And RoUo committing many murders, when he is answerable 
but for one, is too severely arraigned by him ; for it adds to 
our horror and detestation of the criminal : and poetick justice 
is not neglected neither; for we stab him in our minds for 
every offence which he commits ; and the point, which the 
poet is to gain on the audience, is not so much in the death 
of an offender as the raising an horror of his crimes. 

" That the criminal should neither be wholly guilty, nor 

232 DRYDEN. [1631— 

wholly innocent, but so participating of both as to move both 
pity and terror, is certainly a good rule, but not perpetually to 
be observed ; for that were to make all tragedies too much 
alike, which objection he foresaw, but has not fully answered. 

" To conclude, therefore ; if the plays of the ancients are 
more correctly plotted, ours are more beautifully written. 
And if we can raise passions as high on worse foundations, it 
shews our genius in tragedy is greater j for, in all other parts 
of it, the English have manifestly excelled them.'' 

THE original of the following letter is preserved in the 
Library at Lambeth, and was kindly imparted to the publick 
by the reverend Dr. Vyse. 

Copy of an original Letter from John Dryden, Esq., to his 
sons in Italy, from a MS in the Lambeth Library, marked 
N° 933- P- 56. 

Al Illustrissimo Sig'^ 

Carlo Dryden Camariere 

d'Honore A. S. S. 

In Roma. 
Franca per Mantoua. 

" Septi the 3rd, our style. 
" Dear Sons, 
"Being now at Sir William Bowyer's in the country, I 
cannot write at large, because I find myself somewhat indis- 
posed with a cold, and am thick of hearing, rather worse than 
I was in town. I am glad to find, by your letter of July 26th, 
your style, that you are both in health ; but wonder you should 
think me so negligent as to forget to give you an account of the 
ship in which your parcel is to come. I have written to you 
two or three letters concerning it, which I have sent by safe 
hands, as I told you, and doubt not but you have them before 

1 701] DRYDEN. 233 

this can arrive to you. Being out of town, I have forgotten 
the ship's name, which your mother will enquire, and put it 
into her letter, which is joined with mine. But the master's 
name I remember : he is called Mr. Ralph Thorp ; the ship is 
bound to Leghorn, consigned to Mr. Peter and Mr. Tho. 
Ball, merchants. I am of your opinion, that by Tonson's 
means almost all our letters have miscarried for this last year. 
But, however, he has missed of his design in the Dedication, 
though he had prepared the book for it ; for in every figure of 
Eneas he has caused him to be drawn like King WiUiam, with a 
hooked nose. After my return to town, I intend to alter a 
play of Sir Robert Howard's, written long since, and lately put 
by him into my hands : 'tis called The Conquest of China by 
the Tartars. It will cost me six weeks study, with the probable 
benefit of an hundred pounds. In the mean time I am writing 
a song for St. Cecilia's Feast, who, you know, is the patroness 
of musick. This is troublesome, and no way beneficial ; but 
I could not deny the Stewards of the Feast, who came in a 
body to me to desire that kindness, one of them being Mr. 
Bridgman, whose parents are your mother's friends. I hope 
to send you thirty guineas between Michaelmass and Christ- 
mass, of which I will give you an account when I come to 
town. I remember the counsel you give me in your letter ; 
but dissembling, though lawful in some cases, is not my talent, 
yet, for your sake, I will struggle with the plain openness of 
my nature, and keep-in my just resentments against that 
degenerate order. In the mean time, I flatter not myself with 
any manner of hopes, but do my duty, and suffer for God's 
sake ; being assured, beforehand, never to be rewarded, though 
the times should alter. Towards the latter end of this month, 
September, Charles will begin to recover his perfect health, 
according to his nativity, which, casting it myself, I am sure is 
true, and all things hitherto have happened accordingly to the 
very time that I predicted them : I hope at the same time 
to recover more health, according to my age. Remember 
me to poor Harry, whose prayers I earnestly desire. My Virgil 

234 DRYDEN. [1631— 1701 

succeeds in the world beyond its desert or my expectation. 
You know the profits might have been more ; but neither my 
conscience nor my honour would suffer me to take them : but 
I never can repent of my constancy, since I am thoroughly 
persuaded of the justice of the cause for which I suffer. It 
has pleased God to raise up many friends to me amongst my 
enemies, though they who ought to have been my friends are 
negligent of me. I am called to dinner, and cannot go on 
with this letter, which I desire you to excuse ; and am 

" Your most affectionate father, 

"John Dryden." 


1667—1744. '/'t) 


An account of Dr. Swift has been klready collected, with 
great diligence and acuteness, by Dr. Hawkesworth, according 
to a scheme which I laid before him in the intimacy of our 
friendship. I cannot therefore be expected to say much of a 
life, concerning which I had long since communicated my 
thoughts to a man capable of dignifying his narration with so 
much elegance of language and force of sentiment. 

Jonathan Swift was, according to an account said to be 
written by himself, the son of Jonathan Swift, an attorney, 
and was born at Dublin on St. Andrew's day, 1667 : according 
to his own report, as delivered by Pope to Spence, he was 
born at Leicester, the son of a clergyman, who was minister of 
a parish in Herefordshire. ^ During his life the place of his 
birth was undetermined. He was contented to be called an 
Irishman by the Irish ; but would occasionally call himself an 
Englishman. The question may, without much regret, be left 
in the obscurity in which he delighted to involve it. 

Whatever was his birth, his education was Irish. He was 
sent at the age of six to the school at Kilkenny, and in his 
1 Spence's Anecdotes, vol. ii. p. 273. 

236 SWIFT. [1667— 

fifteenth year (1682) was admitted into the University of 

In his academical studies he was either not diligent or not 
happy. It must disappoint every reader's expectation, that, 
when at the usual time he claimed the Bachelorship of Arts, he 
was found by the examiners too conspicuously deficient for 
regular admission, and obtained his degree at last by special 
favour ; a term used in that university to denote want of merit. 

Of this disgrace it may be easily supposed that he was much 
ashamed, and shame had its proper effect in producing 
reformation. He resolved from that time to study eight hours 
a-day, and continued his industry for seven years, with what 
improvement is sufficiently known. This part of his story well 
deserves to be remembered ; it may afford useful admonition 
and powerful encouragement to men, whose abilities have been 
made for a time useless by their passions or pleasures, and 
who, having lost one part of life in idleness, are tempted to 
throw away the- remainder in despair. 

In this course of daily application he continued three years 
longer at Dublin ; and in this time, if the observation and 
memory of an old companion may be trusted, he drew the 
first sketch of his Tale of a Tub; 

When he was about one-and-twenty (1688), being by the 
death of Godwin Swift his uncle, who had supported him, left 
without subsistence, he went to consult his mother, who then 
lived at Leicester, about the future course of his life, and by 
her direction solicited the advice and patronage of Sir William 
Temple, who had married one of Mrs. Swift's relations, and 
whose father Sir John Temple, Master of the Rolls in Ireland, 
had lived in great familiarity of friendship with Godwin Swift, 
by whom Jonathan had been to that time maintained. 

Temple received with sufficient kindness the nephew of his 
father's friend, with whom he was, when they conversed 
together, so much pleased, that he detained him two years in 
his house. Here he became known to King William, who 

1744] SWIFT. 237 

Sometimes visited Temple when he was disabled by the gout, 
and, being attended by Swift in the garden, shewed him how 
to cut asparagus in the Dutch way. 

King William's notions were all military ; and he expressed 
his kindness to Swift by offering to make him a captain of 

When Temple removed to Moorjpark, he took Swift with 
him ; and when he was consulted by the Earl of Portland 
about the expedience of complying with a bill then depending 
for making parliaments triennial, against which King William 
was strongly prejudiced, after having in vain tried to shew, the 
Earl that the proposal involved nothing dangerous to royal 
power, he sent Swift for the same purpose to the King. Swift, 
who probably was proud of his employment, and went with 
all the confidence of a young man, found his arguments, and 
his art of displaying them, made totally ineffectual by the 
predetermination of the King ; and used to mention this 
disappointment as his first antidote against vanity. 

Before he left Ireland he contracted a disorder, as he \ 
thought, by eating too much fruit. The original of diseases is i, 
commonly obscure. Almost every boy eats as much fruit as he 
can get, without any great inconvenience. The disease of 
Swift was giddiness with deafness, which attacked him from 
time to time, began very early, pursued him through life, and 
at last sent him to the grave, deprived of reason. 

Being much oppressed at Moor-park by this grievous 
malady, he was advised to try his native air, and went to 
Ireland; but, finding no benefit, returned to Sir WiUiam, at 
whose house he continued his studies, and is known to have 
read among other books, Cyprian and Irenaeus. He thought 
exercise of great necessity, and used to run half a mile up and 
down a hill every two hours. 

It is easy to imagine that the mode in which his first degree 
was conferred left him no great fondness for the University of 
Dublin, and therefore he resolved to become a Master of Arts 

238 SWIFT. [1667— 

at Oxford. In the testimonial which he produced, the words of 
disgrace were omitted, and he took his Master's degree (July 5, 
1692) with such reception and regard as fully contented him. 

While he lived with Temple, he used to pay his mother at 
Leicester an yearly visit. He travelled on foot, unless some 
violence of weather drove him into a waggon, and at night he 
would go to a penny lodging, where he purchased clean sheets for 
sixpence. This practice Lord Orrery imputes to his innate love 
of grossness and vulgarity : some may ascribe it to his desire 
of surveying human lifei- through all its varieties ; and others, 
perhaps with equal probability, to a passion which seems to 
have been deep fixed in his heart, the love of a shilling. 

In time he began to think that his attendance at Moor-park 
deserved some other recompense than the pleasure, however 
mingled with improvement, of Temple's conversation ; and 
grew so impatient, that in (1694) he went away in discontent. 

Temple, conscious of having given reason for complaint, is 
said to have made him Deputy Master of the Rolls in Ireland ; 
which, according to his kinsman's account, was an office which 
he knew him not able to discharge. Swift therefore resolved 
to enter into the Church, in which he had at first no higher 
hopes than of the chaplainship to the Factory of Lisbon ; but 
being recommended to Lord Capel, he obtained the prebend 
of Kilroot in Connor, of about a hundred pounds a year. 

But the infirmities of Temple made a companion like Swift 
so necessary, that he invited him back, with a promise to 
procure him English preferment, in exchange for the prebend 
which he desired him to resign. With this request Swift 
complied, having perhaps equally repented their separation, 
and they lived on together with mutual satisfaction ; and, in 
the four years that passed between his return and Temple's 
death, it is probable that he wrote the Tale of a Tub and the 
Battle of the Books. 

Swift began early to think, or to hope, that he was a poet, 
and wrote Pindarick Odes to Temple, to the King, and to the 

■ ,' V, i 

1744] SWIFT. 239 

Athenian Society, a knot of obscure men, who published a 
periodical pamphlet of answers to questions, sent, or supposed 
to be sent, by Letters. I have been told that Dryden, having 
perused these verses, said, " Cousin Swift, you will never be a 
poet ; " and that this denunciation was the motive of Swift's 
perpetual malevolence to Drytien. 

In 1699 Temple died, and left a legacy with his manuscripts 
to Swift, for whom he had obtained, from King William, a 
promise of the first prebend that should be vacant at 
Westminster or Canterbury. 

That this promise might not be forgotten. Swift dedicated to 
the King the posthumous works with which he was intrusted ; 
but neither the dedication, nor tenderness for the man whom 
he once had treated with confidence and fondness, revived in 
King William the remembrance of his promise. Swift awhile 
attended the Court ; but soon found his solicitations hopeless. 

He was then invited by the Earl of Berkeley to accompany, 
him into Ireland, as his private secretary ; but after having done 
the business till their arrival at Dublin, he then found that one 
Bush had persuaded the Earl that a Clergyman was not a 
proper secretary, and had obtained the office for himself. In 
a man like Swift, such circumvention and inconstancy must 
have excited violent indignation. 

But he had yet more to suffer. Lord Berkeley had the 
disposal of the deanery of Derry, and Swift expected to obtain 
it; but by the secretary's influence, supposed to have been 
secured by a bribe, it was bestowed on somebody else ; and 
Swift was dismissed with the livings of Laracor and Rathbeggin 
in the diocese of Meath, which together did not equal half 
the value of the deanery. 

At Laracor he increased the parochial duty by reading 
prayers on Wednesdays and Fridays, and performed all the 
offices of his profession with great decency and exactness. 

Soon after his settlement at Laracor, he invited to Ireland 
the unfortunate Stella, a young woman whose name was 

240 SWIFT. [1667— 

Johnson, the daughter of the steward of Sir William Temple, 
who, in consideration of her father's virtues, left her a thousand 
pounds. With her came Mrs. Dingley, whose whole fortune 
was twenty-seven pounds a year for her life. With these 
Ladies he passed his hours of relaxation, and to them he 
opened his bosom ; but they never resided in the same house, 
nor did he see either without a witness. They lived at the 
Parsonage, when Swift was away; and when he returned, 
removed to a lodging, or to the house of a neighbouring 

Swift was not one of those minds which amaze the world 
with early pregnancy: his first work, except his few poetical 
Essays, was the Dissentions in Athens and Rome, published 
(1701) in his thirty-fourth year. After its appearance, paying 
a visit to some bishop, he heard mention made of the new 
pamphlet that Burnet had written, replete with political know- 
ledge. When he seemed to doubt Burnet's right to the work, 
he was told by the Bishop, that he was a young man; and, 
still persisting to doubt, that he was a very positive young 

Three years afterward (1704) was published The Tale of a 
Tub : of this book charity may be persuaded to think that it 
might be written by a man of a peculiar character, without ill 
intention ; but it is certainly, of dangerous example. That Swift 
was its author, though it be universally believed, was never 
owned by himself, nor very well proved by any evidence ; but 
no other claimant can be produced, and he did not deny it 
when Archbishop Sharpe and the Duchess of Somerset, by 
shewing it to the Queen, debarred him from a bishoprick. 

When this wild work first raised the attention of the publick, 
Sacheverell, meeting Smalridge, tried to flatter him, by seeming 
to think him the author ; but Smalridge answered with indig- 
nation, " Not all that you and I have in the world, nor all 
that ever we shall have, should hire me to write the Tale of 
a Tub." 

1744] r' j^ 1;"^ SWIFT. (/ f'*^'-'' 241 

The digressions relating to Wott on and Bentiey must be 
confessed to discover want of knowledge, or want of integrity ; 
he did not understand the two controversies, or he willingly 
misrepresented them. But Wit can stand its ground against 
Truth only a little while. The honours due to learning have 
been justly distributed by the decision of posterity. 

The Battle of the Books is so like the Combat des Livres, 
which the same question concerning the Ancients and Moderns 
had produced in France, that the improbability of such a coin- 
cidence of thoughts without communication is not, in my 
opinion, balanced by the anonymous protestation prefixed, 
in which all knowledge of the French book is peremptorily 

For some time after Swift was probably employed in solitary 
study, gaining the qualifications requisite for future eminence. 
How often he visited England, and with what diligence he 
attended his parishes, I know not. It was not till about four 
years afterwards that he became a professed author, and then 
one year (1708) produced The Sentiments of a Church-of- 
England Man ; the ridicule of Astrology, under the name of 
Bickerstafi'; the Argument against abolishing Christianity; and 
the Defence of the Sacramental Test. 

The Sentiments of a Church-of-England Man is written 
with great coolness, moderation, ease, and perspicuity. The 
Argument against abolishing Christianity is a very happy and 
judicious irony. One passage in it deserves to be selected. 

"If Christianity were once abolished, how could the free- 
thinkers, the strong reasoners, and the men of profound 
learning, be able to find another subject so calculated, in all 
points, whereon to display their abilities? What wonderful 
productions of wit should we be deprived of from those 
whose genius, by continual practice, hath been wholly turned 
upon raillery and invective against religion, and would there- 
fore never be able to shine, or distinguish themselves, upon 
any other subject? We are daily complaining of the great 

242 SWIFT. [1667— 

decline of wit among us, and would take away the greatest, 
, perhaps the only, topick we have left. Who would ever have 
suspected Asgill for a wit, or Toland for a philosopher, if the 
inexhaustible stock of Christianity had not been at hand to 
provide them with materials? What other subject, through 
all art or nature, could have produced Tindal for a profound 
author, or furnished him with readers ? It is the wise choice 
of the subject that alone adorns and distinguishes the writer. 
For had an hundred such pens as these been employed on the 
side of religion, they would have immediately sunk into silence 
and oblivion." 

The reasonableness of a Test is not hard to be proved; 
but perhaps it must be allowed that the proper test has not 
been chosen. 

The attention paid to the papers published under the name 
of Bickerstaff, induced Steele, when he' projected the Tatler, 
to assume an appellation which had already gained possession 
of the reader's notice. 

In the year following he wrote a Project for the Advance- 
ment of Religion, addressed to Lady Berkeley ; by whose 
kindness it is not unlikely that he was advanced to his benefices. 
To this project, which is formed with great purity of intention, 
and displayed with spriteliness and elegance, it can only be 
objected, that, like many projects, it is, if not generally im- 
practicable, yet evidently hopeless, as it supposes more zeal, 
concord, and perseverance, than a view of mankind gives 
reason for expecting. 

He wrote likewise this year a Vindication of Bickerstaff; and 
an explanation of an Ancient Prophecy, part written after the 
facts, and the rest never completed, but well planned to excite 

Soon after began the busy and important part of Swift's life. 
He was employed (17 10) by the primate of Ireland to solicit 
the Queen for a remission of the First Fruits and Twentieth 
parts to the Irish Clergy. With this purpose he had recourse 

1744] SWIFT. 243 

to Mr. Harley, to whom he was mentioned as a man neglected 
and oppressed by the last Ministry, because he had refused to 
co-operate with some of their schemes. What he had refused, 
has never been told, what he had suffered was, I suppose, the 
exclusion from a bishoprick by the remonstrances of Sharpe, 
whom he describes as the harmless tool of others' hate, and whom 
he represents as afterwards suing for pardon, 

Hailey's designs and situation were such as made him glad 
of an auxiliary so well qualified for his service ; he therefore 
soon admitted him to familiarity, whether ever to confidence 
some have made a doubt ; but it would have been difficult to 
excite hip zeal without persuading him that he was trusted, 
and not very easy to delude him by false persuasion. 

He was certainly admitted to those meetings in which the 
first hints and original plan, of action are supposed to have 
been formed ; and was one of the sixteen Ministers, or agents 
of the Ministry, who met weekly at each other's houses, and 
were united by the name of Brother. 

Being not immediately considered as an obdurate Tory, he 
conversed indiscriminately with all the wits, and was yet the 
friend of Steele; who, in the Tatler, which began in 17 10, 
confesses the advantages of his conversation, and mentions 
something contributed by him to his paper. But he was now 
immerging into political controversy ; for the same year 
produced the Examiner, of which Swift wrote thirty-three 
papers. In argument he may be allowed to have the 
advantage ; for where a wide system of conduct, and the 
whole of a publick character, is laid open to enquiry, the 
accuser, having the choice of facts, must be very unskilful if 
he does not prevail ; but with regard to wit, I am afraid none 
of Swift's papers will be found equal to those by which 
Addison opposed him. 

Early in the next year he published a Proposal for correcting, 
improving, and ascertaining the English Tongue, in a Letter 
to the Earl of Oxford; written without much knowledge of 

244 SWIFT. [1667— 

the general nature of language, and without any accurate 
enquiry into the history of other tongues. The certainty and 
stability which, contrary to all experience, he thinks attainable, 
he proposes to secure by instituting an academy,* the decrees 
of which every man would have been willing, and many would 
have been proud to disobey, and which, being renewed by 
successive elections, would in a short time have differed from 

He wrote the same year a Letter to the October Club, a 
number of Tory gentlemen sent from the country to Parlia- 
ment, who formed themselves into a club, to the number of 
about a hundred, and met to animate the zeal and raise the 
expectations of each other. They thought, with great reason, 
that the Ministers were losing opportunities ; that sufficient use 
was not made of the ardour of the nation ; they called loudly 
for more changes, and stronger efforts ; and demanded the 
punishment of part, and the dismission of the rest, of those 
whom they considered as publick robbers. 

Their eagerness was not gratified by the Queen, or by 
Harley. The Queen was probably slow because she was 
afraid, and Harley was slow because he was doubtful ; he was 
a Tory only by necessity, or for convenience ; and when he had 
power in his hands, had no settled purpose for which he 
should employ it : forced to gratify to a certain degree the 
Tories who supported him, but unwilling to make his recon- 
cilement to the Whigs utterly desperate, he corresponded at 
once with the two expectants of the Crown, and kept, as has 
been observed, the succession undetermined. Not knowing 
what to do, he did nothing ; and with the fate of a double- 
dealer, at last he lost his power, but kept his enemies. 

Swift seems to have concurred in opinion with the October 
Club ; but it was not in his power to quicken the tardiness of 
Harley, whom he stimulated as much as he could, but with 
little effect. He that knows not whither to go, is in no haste 
to move. Harley, who was perhaps not quick by nature, 

1744] SWIFT. 245 

became yet more slow by irresolution ; and was content to 
hear that dilatoriness lamented as natural which he applauded 
in himself as politick. 

Without the Tories, however, nothing could be done ; and 
as they were not to be gratified, they must be appeased ; and 
the conduct of the Minister, if it could not be vindicated, was 
to be plausibly excused. 

Swift now attained the zenith of his political importance : 
he published (1712) the Conduct of the Allies, ten days before J{ 
the Parliament assembled. The purpose was to persuade the 
nation to a peace ; and never had any writer more success. 
The people, who had been amused with bonfires and triumphal 
processions, and looked with idolatry on the General and his 
friends, who, as they thought, had made England the arbitress of 
nations, were confounded between shame and rage when they 
found that mines had been exhausted, and millions destroyed, to 
secure the Dutch or aggrandize the emperor, without any 
advantage to ourselves ; that we had been bribing our neigh- 
bours to fight their own quarrel ; and that amongst our 
enemies we might number our allies. 

That is now no longer doubted, of which the nation was 
then first informed, that the war was unnecessarily protracted 
to fill the pockets of Marlborough; and that it would have 
been continued without end, if he could have continued his 
annual plunder. But Swift, I suppose, did not yet know what 
he has since written, that a commission was drawn which 
would have appointed him General for life, had it not become 
ineffectual by the resolution of Lord Cowper, who refused 
the seal. 

Whatever is received, say the schools, is received in proportion 
to the recipient. The power of a political treatise depends 
much upon the disposition of the people ; the nation was then 
combustible, and a spark set it on fire. It is boasted, that 
between November and January eleven thousand were sold ; a 
great number at that time, when we were not yet a nation of 

246 SWIFT. [1667— 

readers. To its propagation certainly no agency of power or 
influence was wanting. It furnished arguments for conver- 
sation, speeches for debate, and materials for parliamentary 

Yet, surely, whoever survey s this wonder-working pamphlet 

with cool per usal, will confess that its efficacy was supplied by 

the passions of its readers ; that it operates by the mere weight 

of facts, with very little assistance from the hand that produced 


. \. This year (17 12) he published his Reflections on the Barrier 

0^ Treaty, which carries on the design of his Conduct of the 

■^ Allies, and shows how little regard in that negotiation had 

^ been shewn to the interest of England, and how much of the 

^ conquered country had been demanded by the Dutch. 

J This was followed by Remarks on the Bishop of Sarum's 

' Introduction to his Third Volume of the History of the 

Reformation ; a pamphlet which Burnet published as an alarm, 

to warn the nation of the approach of Popery. Swift, who 

seems to have disliked the Bishop with something more than 

political aversion, treats him like one whom he is glad of an 

opportunity to insult. 

Swift, being now the declared favourite and supposed 
confidant of the Tory Ministry, was treated by all that 
depended on the Court with the respect which dependents 
know how to pay. He soon began to feel part of the misery 
of greatness ; he that could say he knew him, considered him- 
self as having fortune in his power. Commissions, solicita- 
tions, remonstrances, crowded about him ; he was expected to 
do every man's business, to procure employment for one, and 
to retain it for another. In assisting those who addressed him, 
he represents himself as sufficiently dihgent; and desires to 
have others believe, what he probably believed himself, that 
by his interposition many Whigs of merit, and among them 
Addison and Congreve, were continued in their places. But 
every man of known influence has so many petitions which he 

1744] SWIFT. 247 

cannot grant, that lie must necessarily offend more than he 
gratifies, because the preference given to one affords all the 
rest a reason for complaint. Wken I give away a place, said 
Lewis XIV. / make an hundred discontented, and one ungrateful. 

Much has been said of the equality and independence which 
he preserved in his conversation with the Ministers, of the 
frankness of his remonstrances, and the familiarity of his 
friendship. In accounts of this kind a few sipgle incidents are 
set against the general tenour of behaviour. No man, however, 
can pay a more servile tribute to the Great, than by suffering 
his liberty in their presence to aggrandize him in his own 
esteem. Between different ranks of the community there is 
necessarily some distance : he who is called by his superior 
to pass the interval, may properly accept the invitation ; but 
petulance and obtrusion are rarely produced by magnanimity ; 
nor have often any nobler cause than the pride of importance, 
and the malice of inferiority. He who knows himself neces- 
sary may set, while that necessity lasts, a high value upon 
himself; as, in a lower condition, a servant eminently skilful 
may be saucy; but he issauc5;_^nly_j3ecause_h^is_semle^ 
Swift appears to have preserved the kindness of the great when 
they wanted him no longer ; and therefore it must be allowed, 
that the childish freedom, to which he seems enough inclined, 
was overpowered by his better qualities. 

His disinterestedness has been likewise mentioned ; a strain 
of heroism, which would have been in his condition romantick 
and superfluous. Ecclesiastical benefices, when they become 
vacant, must be given away ; and the friends of Power may, if 
there be no inherent disqualification, reasonably expect them. 
Swift accepted (1713) the deanery of St. Patrick, the best 
preferment that his friends could venture to give him. That 
Ministry was in a great degree supported by the Clergy, who 
were not yet reconciled to the author of the Tale of a Tub, 
and would not without much discontent and indignation have 
borne. to see hina installed in an English cathedral. 

248 SWIFT. [1667— 

He refused, indeed, fifty pounds from Lord Oxford ; but he 
accepted afterwards a draft of a thousand upon the Ex- 
chequer, which was intercepted by the Queen's death, and 
which he resigned, as he says himself, multa gemens, with many 
a groan. 

In the midst of his power and his politicks, he kept a 

journal of his visits, his walks, his interviews with Ministers, 

and quarrels with his servant, and transmitted it to Mrs. 

Johnson and Mrs. Dingley,.to whom he knew that whatever 

{ , 1 befel him was interesting, and no accounts could be too minute. 

^_^ Whether these diurnal trifles were proper lyexposed to eyes 

' ^, which had never received any pleasure from the presence of 

the Dean may be reasonably doubted : they have, however, 

some odd attraction ; the reader, finding frequent mention of 

names which he has been used to consider as important, goes 

on in hope of information ; and, as there is nothing to fatigue 

attention, if he is disappointed he can hardly complain. It is 

easy to perceive, from every page, that though ambition pressed 

Swift into a life of bustle, the wish for a life of ease was always 


He went to take possession of his deanery, as soon as he 

had obtained it ; but he was not suffered to stay in Ireland 
more than a fortnight before he was recalled to England, that 
he might reconcile Lord Oxford and Lord Bolingbroke, who 
began to look on one another with malevolence, which every 
day increased, and which Bolingbroke appeared to retain in 
his last years. 

Swift contrived an interview, from which they both departed 
discontented : he procured a second, which only convinced 
him that the feud was irreconcileable : he told them his 
opinion, that all was lost. This denunciation was contra- 
dicted by Oxford, but Bolingbroke whispered that he was 

Before this violent dissension had shattered the Ministry, 
Swift had published, in the beginning of the year (17 14), The 

1744] SWIFT. 249 

Publick Spirit of the Whigs, in answer to The Crisis, a 
pamphlet for which Steele was expelled from the House -f 
of Commons. Swift was now so far alienated from Steele as 
to think him no longer ent itled to decen cy, and therefore 
treats him sometimes with contempt, and sometimes with 

In this pamphlet the Scotch were mentioned in terms so 
provoking to that irritable nation, that, resolving not to be 
offended with impunity, the Scotch Lords in a body demanded 
an audience of the Queen, and solicited reparation. A pro- 
clamation was issued, in which three hundred pounds were 
offered for discovery of the author. From this storm he was, 
as he relates, secured by a sleight ; of what kind, or by whose 
prudence, is not known j and such was the increase of his 
reputation, that the Scottish Nation applied again that he would 
be their friend. 

He was become so formidable to the Whigs, that his 
familiarity with the Ministers was clamoured at in Parliament, 
particularly by two men, afterwards of great note, Aislabie and 
Walpole. J,:, ^,.; ?;. 1 i><X^^.^ ^^ 

But, by the disunion of his great friends, h/s importance and 
his designs were now at an end ; and seeing his services at 
last useless, he retired about June (1714) into Berkshire, where, 
in the house of a friend, he wrote what was then suppressed, 
but has since appeared under the title of Free Thoughts on the 
present State of Affairs. 

While he was waiting in this retirement for events which time 
or chance might bring to pass, the death of the Queen broke 
down at once the whole system of Tory Politicks ; and nothing 
remained but to withdraw from the implacabiUty of triumphant 
Whiggism, and shelter himself in unenvied obscurity. 

The accounts of his reception in Ireland, given by Lord 
Qjrery and Dr. D^joy, are so different, that the credit of IHe 
writers, both undoubtedly veracious, cannot be saved, but by 
supposing, what I think is true, that they speak of different 

250 SWIFT. [1667— 

times. When Delany says that he was received with respect, 
he means for the first fortnight, when he came to take legal 
possession ; and when Lord Orrery tells that he was pelted by 
the populace, he is to be understood of the time when, after 
the Queen's death, he became a settled resident. 

The Archbishop of Dublin gave him at first some disturb- 
ance in the exercise of his jurisdiction ; but it was soon dis- 
covered, that between prudence and integrity he was seldom 
in the wrong ; and that, when he was right, his spirit did not 
easily yield to opposition. 

Having so lately quitted the tumults of a party and the 
intrigues of a court, they still kept his thoughts in agitation, as 
the sea fluctuates a while when the storm has ceased. He 
therefore filled his hours with some historical attempts relating 
to the Change of the Ministers and the Conduct of the Ministry. 
He likewise is said to have written a History of the Four last 
Years of Queen Anne, which he began in her lifetime, and 
afterwards laboured with great attention, but never published. 
It was after his death in the hands of Lord Orrery and Dr. 
King. A book under that title was published, with Swift's 
name, by Dr. Lucas ; of which I can only, say, that it seemed 
by no means to correspond with the notions that I had formed 
of it, from a conversation which I once heard between the Earl 
of Orrery and old Mr-_Lewis. 

Swift now, much against his will, commenced Irishman for 
life, and was to contrive how he might be best accommodated 
in a country where he considered himself as in a state of exile. 
It seems that his first recourse was to piety. The thoughts of 
death rushed upon him, at this time, with such incessant 
importunity, that they took possession of his mind, when he 
first waked, for many years together. 

He opened his house by a publick table two days a week, 
and found his entertainments gradually frequented by more and 
more visitants of learning among the men, and of elegance 
among the women. Mrs. Johnson had left the country, and 

1744] SWIFT. 251 

lived in lodgings not far from the deanery. On his publick 
days she regulated the table, but appeared at it as a mere 
guest, like other ladies. 

On other days he often dined, at a stated price, with Mr. 
Worral, a clergyman of his cathedral, whose house was recom- 
mended by the peculiar neatness and pleasantry of his wife. 
To this frugal mode of living, he was iirst disposed by care to 
pay some debts which he had contracted, and he continued it 
for the pleasure of accumulating money. His avarice, how- 
ever, was not suffered to obstruct the claims of his dignity ; he 
was served in glate, and used to say that he was the poorest 
gentleman in Ireland that ate upon plate, and the richest that 
lived without a coach. 

How he spent the rest of his time, and how he employed his 
hours of study, has been enquired with hopeless curiosity. 
For who can give an account of another's studies ? Swift was 
not likely to admit any to his privacies, or to impart a minute 
account of his business or his leisure. 

Soon after (17 16), in his forty-ninth year, he was privately 
married to Mrs. Johnson by Dr. Ashe, Bishop of Clogher, as 
Dr. Madden told me, in the garden. The marriage made no 
change in their mode of life; they lived in different houses, 
as before ; nor did she ever lodge in the deanery but when 
Swift was seized with a fit of giddiness. "It would be 
difficult," says Lord Orrery, "to prove that they were ever 
afterwards together without a third person." 

The Dean of St. Patrick's lived in a private manner, known 
and regarded only by his friends, till, about the year 1720, he, 
by a pamphlet, recommended to the Irish the use, and con- 
sequently the improvement, of their manufacture. For a man 
to use the productions of his own labour is surely a natural 
right, and to like best what he makes himself is a natural 
passion. But to excite this passion, and enforce this right, 
appeared so criminal to those who had an interest in the 
English trade, that the printer was imprisoned; and, as 

^S2 SWIFT. [1667— 

-Hawkesworth justly observes, the attention of the publick 
being by this outrageous resentment turned upon the proposal, 
the author was by consequence made popular. 

In 1723 died Mrs. Van Homrigh, a woman made unhappy 
by her admiration of wit, and ignominiously distinguished by 
the name of Vanessa, whose conduct has been already sufficiently 
discussed, and whose history is too well known to be minutely 
repeated. She was a young woman fond of literature, whom 
Decanus the Dean, called (Caoenus by transposition of the 
letters, took pleasure in directing and instructing ; till, from 
being proud of his praise, she grew fond of his person. Swift 
was then about forty-seven, at an age when vanity is strongly 
excited by the amorous attention of a young woman. If it be 
said that Swift should have checked a passion which he never 
meant to gratify, recourse must be had to that extenuation 
which he so much despised, men are but men : perhaps how- 
ever he did not at first know his own mind, and, as he 
represents himself, was undetermined. For his admission of 
her courtship, and his indulgence of her hopes after his mar- 
riage to Stella, no other honest plea can be found than that he 
delayed a disagreeable discovery from time to time, dreading 
the immediate bursts of distress, and watching for a favourable 
moment. She thought herself neglected, and died of dis- 
appointment ; having ordered by her will the poem to be 
published in which Cadenus had proclaimed her excellence, 
and confessed his love. The effect of the publication upon 
the Dean and Stella is thus related by Delany. 

" I have good reason to believe, that they both were greatly 
shocked and distressed (though it may be differently) upon this 
occasion. The Dean made a tour to the South of Ireland, for 
about two months, at this time, to dissipate his thoughts, and 
give place to obloquy. And Stella retired (upon the earnest 
invitation of t£e owner) to the house of a cheerful, generous, 
good-natured friend of the Dean's, whom she also much loved 
and honomred. There my informer often saw her ; and, I have 

1744] SWIFT. 253 

reason to believe, used his utmost endeavours to relieve, 
support, and amuse her, in this sad situation. 

" One little incident he told me of, on that occasion, I think 
I shall never forget. As her friend was an hospitable, open- 
hearted man, well-beloved, and largely acquainted, it happened 
one day that some gentlemen dropt in to dinner, who were 
strangers to Stella's situation; and as the poem of Cadenus 
and Vanessa was then the general topic of conversation, one 
of them said, ' Surely that Vanessa must be an extraordinary 
woman, that could inspire the Dean to write so finely upon 
her.' Mrs. Johnson smiled, and answered, ' that she thought 
that point not quite so clear ; for it was well known the Dean 
could write finely upon a broomstick.' " 

The great acquisition of esteem and influence was made by 
the Drapier's Letters in 1724. One Wood of Wolverhampton 
in Staffordshire, a man enterprising and rapacious, had, as is 
said, by a present to the Duche§s of Munster, obtained a 
patent, empowering him to coin mie" hundred and eighty 
thousand pounds of halfpence and farthings for the kingdom 
of Ireland, in which there was a very inconvenient and em- 
barrassing scarcity of copper coin ; so that it was possible to 
run in debt upon the credit of a piece of money ; for the cook 
or keeper of an alehouse could not refuse to supply a man that 
had silver in his hand, and the buyer would not leave his 
money without change. 

The project was therefore plausible. The scarcity, which 
was already great. Wood took care to make greater, by agents 
who gathered up the old half-pence ; and was about to turn his 
brass into gold, by pouring the treasures of his new mint upon 
Ireland, when Swift, finding that the metal was debased to an 
enormous degree, wrote Letters, under the name of M. B. 
Drapier, to shew the folly of receiving, and the mischief that 
must ensue by giving gold and silver for coin worth perhaps 
not a third part of its nominal value. 

The nation was alarmed; the new coin was universally 

254 SWIFT. [1667— 

refused : but the governors of Ireland considered resistance to 
the King's patent as highly criminal ; and one Whitshed, then 
Chief Justice, who had tried the printer of the former pamphlet, 
and sent out the Jury nine times, till by clamour and menaces 
they were frighted into a special verdict, now presented the 
Drapier, but could not prevail on the Grand Jury to find 
the bill. 

Lord Carteret and the Privy Council published a proclam- 
ation, offering three hundred pounds for. discovering the author 
of the Fourth Letter. Swift had concealed himself from his 
printers, and trusted only his butler, who transcribed the paper. 
The man, immediately after the appearance of the proclam- 
ation, strolled from the house, and staid out all night, and part 
of the next day. There was reason enough to fear that he had 
betrayed his master for the reward ; but he came home, and 
the Dean ordered him to put off his livery, and leave the 
house ; " for," says he, " I know that my life is in your power, 
and I will not bear, out of fear, either your insolence or 
negligence.'' The man excused his fault with great submission, 
and begged that he might be confined in the house while it 
was in his power to endanger his master ; but the Dean 
resolutely turned him out, without taking farther notice of him, 
till the term of information had expired, and then received him 
again. Soon afterwards he ordered him and the rest of his 
servants into his presence, without teUing his intentions, and 
bade them take notice that their fellow-servant was no longer 
Robert the butler ; but that his integrity had made him Mr. 
Blakeney, verger of St. Patrick's ; an officer whose income was 
(between thirty and forty pounds a year : yet he still continued 
'for some years to serve his old master as his butler. 

Swift was known from this time by the appellation of The 
Dean. He was honoured by the populace, as the champion, 
patron, and instructor of Ireland ; and gained such power as, 
considered both in its extent and duration, scarcely any man 
has ever enjoyed without greater wealth or higher station. 

1744] SWIFT. 25s 

He was from this important year the oracle of the traders, 
and the idol of the rabble, and by consequence was feared 
and courted by all to whom the kindness of the traders or the 
populace was necessary. The Drapier was a sign ; the Drapier 
was a health ; and which way soever the eye or the ear was 
turned, some tokens were found of the nation's gi-atitude to the 

The benefit was indeed great ; he had rescued Ireland from 
a very oppressive and predatory invasion ; and the popularity 
'which he had gained he was dihgent to keep, by appearing 
forward and zealous on every occasion where the publick 
interest was supposed to be involved. Nor did he much 
scruple to boast his influence ; for when, upon some attempts 
to regulate the coin, Archbishop Boulter, then one of the 
Justices, accused him of exasperating the people, he excul- 
pated himself by saying, " If I had lifted up my finger, they . 
would have torn you to pieces." 

But the pleasure of popularity was soon interrupted by 
domestic misery. Mrs. Johnson, whose conversation was to 
him the great softener of the ills of life, began in the year of 
the Drapier's triumph to decline ; and two years afterwards 
was so wasted with sickness that her recovery was considered 
as hopeless. 

Swift was then in England, and had been invited by Lord 
Bolingbroke to pass the winter with him in France ; but this 
call of calamity hastened him to Ireland, where perhaps his 
presence contributed to restore her to imperfect and tottering 
health. / 

He was now so much at ease, that (1727) he returned to p- ^^ 
England; where he collected three volumes of Miscellanies >L 
in conjunction with Pope, who prefixed a querulous and 
apologetical Preface. 

This important year sent likewise into the world Gulliver's + 
Travels, a production so new and strange, that it filled the 
reader with a mingled emotion of merriment and amazement. 

256 SWIFT. [1667— 

It was received with such avidity, that the price of the first 
edition was raised before the second could be made ; it was 
read by the high and the low, the learned and illiterate. 
Criticism was for a while lost in wonder ; no rules of judge- 
ment were applied to a book written in open defiance of truth 
and regularity. But when distinctions came to be made, the 
part which gave least pleasure was that which describes the 
Flying Island, and that which gave most disgust -«rtfst be the 
history of the Houyhnhnms. 

WhUe Swift was enjoying the reputation ot Hs' new work, 
the news of the King's death arrived ; and he kissed the hands 
of the new King and Queen three days after their accession. 

By the Queen, when she was Princess, he had been treated 
with some distinction, and was well received by her in her 
exaltation ; but whether she gave hopes which she never took 
care to satisfy, or he formed expectations which she never 
meant to raise, the event was, that he always afterwards thought 
on her with malevolence, and particularly charged her with 
breaking her promise of some medals which she engaged to 
send him. 

I know not whether she had not, in her turn, some reason 
for complaint. A Letter was sent her, not so much entreating 
as requiring her patronage of Mrs. Barber, an ingenious Irish- 
woman, who was then begging subscriptions for her Poems. 
To this Letter was subscribed the name of Swift, and it has all 
the appearances of his diction and sentiments ; but it was not 
written in his hand, and had some little improprieties. When 
he was charged with this Letter, he laid hold of the inac- 
curacies, and urged the improbability of the accusation ; but 
never denied it : he shuffles between cowardice and veracity, 
and talks big when he says nothing. 

He seemed desirous enough of recommencing courtier, and 
endeavoured to gain the kindness of Mrs. Howard, remem- 
bering what Mrs. Ma sham had performed in former times ; but 
his flatteries wfere, like those of the other wits, unsuccessful ; 

1744] SWIFT. 257 

the Lady either wanted power, or had no ambition of poetical 

He was seized not long afterwards by a fit of giddiness,' and 
again heard of the sickness and danger of Mrs. Johnson. He 
then left the house of Pope, as it seems, with very little cere- 
mony, finding that two sick friends cannot live together ; and did 
not write to him till he found himself at Chester. 

He returned to a home of sorrow : poor Stella was sinking 
into the grave, and, after a languishing decay of about two 
months, died in her forty-fourth year, on January 28, 1728. 
How much he wished her life, his papers shew ; nor can it be 
doubted that he dreaded the death of her whom he loved 
most, aggravated by the consciousness that himself had 
hastened it. 

Beauty and the power of pleasing, the greatest external 
advantages that woman can desire or possess, were fatal to the 
unfortunate Stella. The man whom she had the misfortune to 
love was, as Delany observes, fond of singularity, and desirous 
to make a mode of happiness for himself, different from the 
general course of things and order of Providence. From the 
time of her arrival in Ireland he seems resolved to keep her 
in his power, and therefore hindered a match sufficiently 
advantageous, by accumulating unreasonable demands, and 
prescribing conditions that could not be performed. While 
she was at her own disposal he did not consider his possession 
as secure; resentment, ambition, or caprice, might separate 
them ; he was therefore resolved to make assurance double sure, 
and to appropriate her by a private marriage, to which he had 
annexed the expectation of all the pleasures of perfect friend- 
ship, without the uneasiness of conjugal restraint. But with 
this state poor Stella was not satisfied ; she never was treated 
as a wife, and to the world she had the appearance of a mistress. 
She lived sullenly on, in hope that in time he would own and 
receive her ; but the time did not come till the change of his 
manners and depravation of his mind made her tell him, when 


258 SWIFT. [1667^ 

he offered to acknowledge her, that it was too late. She then 
gave up herself to sorrowful resentment, and died under the 
tyranny of him, by whom she was in the highest degree loved 
and honoured. 

What were her claims to this excentrick tenderness, by which 
the laws of nature were violated to retain her, curiosity will 
enquire ; but how shall it be gratified ? Swift was a lover ; his 
testimony may be suspected. Delany and the Irish saw with 
Swift's eyes, and therefore add little confirmation. That she 
was virtuous, beautiful, and elegant, in a very high degree, such 
admiration from such a lover makes it very probable : but she 
had not much literature, for she could not spell her own 
language ; and of her wit, so loudly vaunted, the smart sayings 
which Swift himself has collected afford no splendid specimen. 

The reader of Swift's Letter to a Lady on her Marriage, may 
be allowed to doubt whether his opinion of female excellence 
ought implicitly to be admitted ; for if his general thoughts on 
women were such as he exhibits, a very little sense in a Lady 
would enrapture, and a very little virtue would astonish him. 
Stella's supremacy, therefore, was perhaps only local ; she was 
great, because her associates were little. 

In some Remarks lately published on the Life of Swift, this 
marriage is mentioned as fabulous, or doubtful ; but, alas ! 
poor Stella, as Dr. Madden told me, related her melancholy 
story to Dr. Sheridan, when he attended her as a clergyman to 
prepare her for death ; and Delany mentions it not with doubt, 
but only with regret. Swift never mentioned her without a 

The rest of his life was spent in Ireland, in a country to 
which not even power almost despotick, nor flattery almost 
idolatrous, could reconcile him. He sometimes wished to visit 
England, but always found some reason of delay. He tells 
Pope, in the decline of life, that he hopes once more to see 
him ; but if not, says he, we must part, as all humaji beings have 

■ 1744] SWIFT, 259 

After the death of Stella, his benevolence was contracted, 
and his severity exasperated ; he drove his acquaintance from 
his table, and wondered why he was deserted. But he con- 
tinued his attention to the publick, and wrote from time to tirrie 
such directions, admonitions, or censures, as the exigency of 
affairs, in his opinion, made proper ; and nothing fell from his 
pen in vain. 

In a short poem on the Presbyterians, whom he always 
regarded with detestation, he bestowed one stricture upon 
Bettesworth, a lawyer eminent for his insolence to the clergy, 
which, from very considerable reputation, brought Inm into 
immediate and universal contempt. Bettesworth, enraged at 
his disgrace and loss, went to Swift, and demanded whether he 
was the author of that poem? "Mr. Bettesworth," answered 
he, "I was in my youth acquainted with great lawyers, who, 
knowing my disposition to satire, advised me, that, if any 
scoundrel or blockhead whom I had lampooned should ask. 
Are you the author of this paper 2 I should tell him that I was 
not the author; and therefore I tell you, Mr. Bettesworth, 
that I am not the author of these lines." 

Bettesworth was so little satisfied with this account, that he 
publickly professed his resolution of a violent and corporal 
revenge; but the inhabitants of St. Patrick's district embodied 
themselves in the Dean's defence. Bettesworth declared in 
Parliament, that Swift had deprived him of twelve hundred 
pounds a year. 

Swift was popular a while by another mode of beneficence. 
He set aside some hundreds to be lent in small sums to the 
poor, from five shillings, I think, to five pounds. He took no 
interest, and only required that, at repayment, a small fee 
should be given to the accomptant ; but he required that the 
day of promised payment should be exactly kept. A severe 
and punctilious temper is ill-qualified for transactions with the 
poor; the day was often broken, and the loan was not repaid. 
This might have been easily foreseen ; but for this Swift had 

s 2 

260 : " ' SWIFT. [1667— 

made n6^ provision of patience or pity. He ordered his 
debtors to be sued. A severe creditor has no popular 
character; wjiat then was likely to be said of him who 
employs the Catchpoll under the appearance of charity? 
The clamour agamst him was loud, and the resentment of 
the populace outrageous ; he was therefore forced to drop his 
scheme, and own the folly of expecting punctuality from the 

His asperity continually increasing, condemned him to 
solitude; and his resentment of solitude sharpened his asperity. 
He was not, however, totally deserted ; some men of learning, 
and some women of elegance, often visited him ; and he wrote 
from time to time either verse or prose; of his verses he 
willingly gave copies, and is supposed to have felt no dis- 
content when he saw them printed. His favourite maxim was 
m've la bagatelle ; he thought trifles a necessary part of life, and 
perhaps found them necessary to himself. It seems impossible 
to him to be idle, and his disorders made it difficult or dan- 
gerous to be long seriously studious, or laboriously diligent. 
The love of ease is always gaining upon age, and he had one 
temptation to petty amusements peculiar to himself; what- 
ever he did, he was sure to hear applauded ; and such was his 
predominance over all that approached, that all their applauses 
were probably sincere. He that is much flattered, soon learns 
to flatter himself: we are commonly taught our duty by fear or 
shame, and how can they act upon the man who hears nothing 
but his own praises ? 

As his years increased, his fits of giddiness and deafness 
grew more frequent, and his deafness made conversation 
difficult; they grew likewise more severe, till in 1736, as 
he was writing a poem called The Legion Club, he was 
seized with a fit so painful, and so long continued, that 
he never after thought it proper to attempt any work of 
thought or labour. 

He was always careful of his money, and was therefore no 

1744] SWIFT. 261 

liberal entertainer ; but was less frugal of his wine than of his 
meat. When his friends of either sex came to him, in expec- 
tation of a dinner, his custom was to give every one a shilling, 
that they might please themselves with their provision. At 
last his avarice grew too powerful for his kindness ; he would 
refuse a bottle of wine, and in Ireland no man visits where he 
cannot drink. 

Having thus excluded conversation, and desisted from study, 
he had neither business nor amusement ; for having, by some 
ridiculous resolution or mad vow, determined never to wear 
spectacles, he could make little use of books in his later 
years : his ideas, therefore, being neither renovated by dis- 
course, nor increased by reading, wore gradually away, and 
left his mind vacant to the vexations of the hour, till at last 
his anger was heightened into madness. 

He however permitted one book to be published, which 
had been the production of former years ; Polite Con- 
versation, which appeared in 1738. The Directions for 
Servants was printed soon after his death. These two 
performances shew a mind incessantly attentive, and, when 
it was not employed upon great things, busy with minute 
occurrences. It is apparent that he must have had the habit 
of noting whatever he observed ; for such a number of 
particulars could never have been' assembled by the power 
of recollection. 

He grew more violent ; and his mental powers declined till 
(1741) it was found necessary that legal guardians should be 
appointed of his person and fortune. He now lost distinction. 
His madness was compounded of rage and fatuity. The last 
face that he knew was that of Mrs. Whiteway, and her he 
ceased to know in a little time. His meat was brought him 
cut into mouthfuls ; but he would never touch it while the 
servant staid, and at last, after it had stood perhaps an hour, 
would eat it walking ; for he continued his old habit, and was 
on his feet ten hours a-day. 

262 SWIFT. [1667— 

Next year (1742) he had an inflammation in his left eye, 
which swelled it to the size of an egg, with boils in other 
parts ; he was kept long waking with the pain, and was not 
easily restrained by five attendants from tearing out his eye. 

The tumour at last subsided ; and a short interval of reason 
ensuing, in which he knew his physician and his family, gave 
hopes of his recovery ; but in a few days he sunk into le- 
thargick stupidity, motionless, heedless, and speechless. But 
it is said, that, after a year of total silence, when his house- 
keeper, on the 30th of November, told him that the usual 
bonfires and illuminations were preparing to celebrate his birth- 
day, he answered. It is all folly ; they had better let it alone. 

It is remembered that he afterwards spoke now and then, or 
gave some intimation of a meaning ; but at last sunk into 
perfect silence, which continued till about the end of October, 
1744, when, in his seventy-eight year, he expired without a 

When Swift is considered as an author, it is just to estimate 
his powers by their effects. In the reign of Queen Anne he 
turned the stream of popularity against the Whigs, and must be 
confessed to have dictated for a time the political opinions of 
the English nation. In the succeeding reign he delivered 
Ireland from plunder and oppression; and shewed that wit, 
confederated with truth, had such force as authority was unable 
to resist. He said truly of himself, that Ireland was his debtor. 
It was from the time when he first began to patronise the 
Irish, that they may date their riches and prosperity. He 
taught them first to know their own interest, their weight, and 
their strength, and gave them spirit to assert that equality with 
their fellow-subjects to which they have ever since been making 
vigorous advances, and to claim those rights which they have 
at last estabHshed. Nor can they be charged with ingratitude 
to their benefactor; for they reverenced him as a guardian, 
and obeyed him as a dictator. 

1744] SWIFT. 263 

In his works, he has given very different specimens both of 
sentiment and expression. His Tale of a Tub has little re- 
semblance to his other pieces. It exhibits a vehemence and 
rapidity of mind, a copiousness of images, and vivacity of 
diction, such as he afterwards never possessed, or never ex- 
erted. It is of a mode so distinct and peculiar, that it must be -| 
considered by itself; what is true of that, is not true of any 
thing else which he has written. 

In his other works is found an equable tenour of easy lan- 
guage, which rather trickles than flows. His delight was in sim- 
plicity. That he has in his works no metaphor, as has been 
said, is not true; but his few metaphors seem to be received | 
rather by necessity than choice. He studied purity; and p^ 
though perhaps all his strictures are not exact, yet it is not : ' 
often that solecisms can be found ; and whoever depends on 
his authority may generally conclude himself safe. His sen- 
tences are never too much dilated or contracted ; and it will 
not be easy to find any embarrassment in the complication of 
his clauses, any inconsequence in his connections, or abrupt- 
ness in his transitions. 

His style was well suited to his thoughts, which are never 
subtilised by nice disquisitions, decorated by sparkling conceits, 
elevated by ambitious sentences, or variegated by far-sought 
learning. He pays no coiirt to the passions ; he excites neither 
surprise nor admiration; he always understands himself: and 
his reader always understands him : the peruser of Swift wants ' 
little previous knowledge ; it will be sufficient that he is 
acquainted with common words and common things ; he is 
neither required to mount elevations, nor to explore pro- 
fundities ; his passage is always on a level, along solid ground, 
without asperities, without obstruction. 

This easy and safe conveyance of meaning 'it was Swift's 
desire to attain, and for having attained he deserves praise, 
though perhaips not the highest praise. For purposes merely 
didactick, when something is to be told that was not known 

264 SWIFT. [1667— 

before, it is the best mode, but against that inattention by which 
known truths are suffered to lie neglected, it makes no 
provision ; it instructs, but does not persuade. 

By his political education he was associated with the Whigs ; 
but he deserted them when they deserted their principles, yet 
without running into the contrary extreme ; he continued 
throughout his life to retain the disposition which he assigns to 
the Church-of-England Man, of thinking commonly with the 
Whigs of the State, and with the Tories of the Church. 

He was a churchman rationally zealous; he desired the 
prosperity, and maintained the honour of the Clergy ; of the 
Dissenters he did not wish to infringe the toleration, but he 
opposed their encroachments. 

To his duty as Dean he was very attentive. He managed the 
revenues of his church with exact ceconoray ; and it is said by 
Delany, that more money was, under his direction, laid out 
in repairs than had ever been in the same time since its first 
erection. Of his choir he was eminently careful ; and, though 
he neither loved nor understood musick, took care that all 
the singers were well quahfied, admitting none without the 
testimony of skilful judges. 

In his church he restored the practice of weekly communion, 
and distributed the sacramental elements in the most solemn 
and devout manner with his own hand. He came to church 
every morning, preached commonly in his turn, and attended 
the evening anthem, that it might not be negligently per- 

He read the service rather with a strong nervous voice than 
in a graceful manner ; his voice was sharp and high-toned, rather 
than harmonious. 

He entered upon the clerical state with hope to excel in 
preaching ; but complained, that, from the time of his political 
controversies, he could only preach pamphlets. This censure of 
himself, if judgement be made from those sermons which have 
been published, was unreasonably severe. 

1744] SWIFT. 26s 

The suspicions of his irreligion proceeded in a great measure ^^ 
from his dread of hypocrisy ; instead of wishing to seem better, 
he delighted in seeming worse than he was. He went in Lon- 
don to early prayers, lest he should be seen at church ; he read 
prayers to his servants every morning with such dexterous se- 
crecy, that Dr. Delany was six months in his house before he 
knew it. He was not only careful to hide the good which he 
did, but willingly incurred the suspicion of evil which he did 
not. He forgot what himself had formerly asserted, that hypo- 
crisy is less mischievous than open impiety. Dr. Delany, with 
all his zeal for his honour, has justly condemned this part of 
his character. 

The person of Swift had not many recommendations. He 
had a kind of muddy complexion, which, though he washed 
himself with oriental scrupulosity, did not look clear. He 
had a countenance sour and severe, which he seldom softened 
by any appearance of gaiety. He stubbornly resisted any ten- 
dency to laughter. 

To his domesticks he was naturally rough ; and a man of a 
rigorous temper, with that vigilance of minute attention which 
his works discover, must have been a master that few could 
bear. That he was disposed to do his servants good, on 
important occasions, is no great mitigation ; benefaction can 
be but rare, and tyrannick peevishness is perpetual. He did 
not spare the servants of others. Once, when he dined alone 
with the Earl of Orrery, he said, of one that waited in the 
room. That man has, since we sat to the table, committed fifteen 
faults. What the faults were, Lord Orrery, from whom I heard 
the story, had not been attentive enough to discover. My 
number may perhaps not be exact. 

In his oeconomy he practised a peculiar and offensive 
parsimony, without disguise or apology. The practice of 
saving being once necessary, became habitual, and grew first 
ridiculous, and at last detestable. But his avarice, though it 
might exclude pleasure, was never suffered to encroach upon 

266 SWIFT. [1667— 

his virtue. He was frugal by inclination,, but liberal by 
principle ; and if the purpose to which he destined .his little 
accumulations be remembered, with his distribution of 
occasional charity, it will perhaps appear that he only liked 
one mode of expence better than another, and saved merely 
that he might have something to give. He did not grow rich 
by injuring his successors, but left both Laracor and the 
Deanery more valuable than he fpund them. — With all this 
talk of his covetousness and, generosity, it should be re- 
membered that he was never rich. The revenue of his 
Deanery was not much more than seven hundred a year. 

His beneficence was not graced with tenderness or civility ; 
he relieved without pity, and assisted without kindness, so that 
those who were fed by him could hardly love him. , 

He made a rule to himself to give but one piece at a time, 
and therefore always stored his ppcket with coins of different 

Whatever he did, he seemed willing to do in a manner 
peculiar to himself, without suflSciently considering that singu- 
larity, as it implies a contempt of the general , practice, is a 
kind of defiance which justly provokes the hostility of ridicule ; 
he therefore who indulges peculiar habits is worse than otliers if 
he be not better. 

Of his humour, a story told by Pope may afford a 

" "^ Dr. Swift has an odd, blunt way, that is mistaken, by 
strangers, for ill-nature. — 'Tisso odd, that there's no describing 
it but by facts. I'll tell you one that first comes into my 
head. One evening, Gay and I went to see him : you know 
how intimately we were all acquainted. On our coming in, 
'Heyday, gentlemen (says the Doctor), what's the meaning of 
this visit ? How came you to leave all the great Lords, that you 
are so fond of, to come hither to see a poor Dean ? ' — Because 
we would rather see you than any of them. — 'Ay, any one 
^ Spence. 

1744] SWIFT. 267 

that did not know so well as I do, might believe you. But 
sinceyou are come, I must get some supper for you, I suppose.' 
No, Doctor, we have supped already. — ' Supped already ? that's 
impossible ! why, 'tis not eight o'clock yet.— That's very strange ; 
but, if you had not supped, I must have got something for 
you. — Let me see, what should I have had? A couple of 
lobsters ; ay, that would have done very well ; two shillings — 
tarts, a shilling : but you will drink a glass of wine with me, 
though you supped so much before your usual time only to 
spare my pocket?' — No, we had rather talk with you than 
drink with you. — ' But if you had supped with me, as in all 
reason you ought to have done, you must then have drunk with 
me. — A bottle of wine, two shillings — two and two is four, and 
one is five : just two-and-six-pence a-piece. There, Pope, 
there's half-a-crown for you, and there's another for you. Sir; 
for I won't save any thing by you, I am determined.' — This was 
all said and done with his usual seriousness on such occasions ; 
and, in spite of every thing we could say to the contrary, he 
actually obliged us to take the money.'' 

In the intercourse of familiar life, he indulged his disposition 
to petulance and sarcasm, and thought himself injured if the 
licentiousness of his raillery, the freedom of his censures, or 
the petulance of his frolicks, was resented or repressed. He 
predominated over his companions with very high ascendency, 
and probably would bear none over whom he could not pre- 
dominate. To give him advice was, in the style of his 
friend Delany, to venture to speak to him. This customary 
superiority soon grew too delicate for truth ; and Swift, with 
all his penetation, allowed himself to be delighted with low 

On all common occasions, he habitually affects a style of 
arrogance, and dictates rather than persuades. This authorita- 
tive and magisterial language he expected to be received as his 
peculiar mode of jocularity ; but he apparently flattered his 
own arrogance by an assumed imperiousness, in which he was 

268 SWIFT. [1667— 

ironical only to the resentful, and to the submissive sufficiently 

He told stories with great felicity, and delighted in doing 
what he knew himself to do well. He was therefore captivated 
by the respectful silence of a steady listener, and told the same 
tales too often. 

He did not, however, claim the right of talking alone ; for 
it was his rule, when he had spoken a minute, to give room by 
a pause for any other speaker. Of time, on all occasions, he 
was an exact computer, and knew the minutes required to 
every common operation. 

It may be justly supposed that there was in his conversation, 
what appears so frequently in his Letters, an affectation of 
familiarity with the Great, an ambition of momentary equality 
sought and enjoyed by the neglect of those ceremonies which 
custom has established as the barriers between one order of 
society and another. This trangression of regularity was by 
himself and his admirers termed greatness of soul. But a 
great mind disdains to hold anything by courtesy, and there- 
fore never usurps what a lawful claimant may take away. 
He that encroaches on another's dignity, puts himself in his 
power ; he is either repelled with helpless indignity, or endured 
by clemency and condescension. 

Of Swift's general habits of thinking, if his Letters can be 
supposed to afford any evidence, he was not a man to be either 
loved or envied. He seems to have wasted life in discontent, 
by the rage of neglected pride, and the languishment of un- 
satisfied desire. He is querulous and fastidious, arrogant and 
malignant; he scarcely speaks of himself but with indignant 
lamentations, or of others but with insolent superiority when he 
is gay and with angry contempt when he is gloomy. From the 
Letters that pass between him and Pope it might be inferred 
that they, with Arbjjthnot and Gay, had engrossed all the 
understanding and virtue of mankind, that their merits filled 
the world j or that there was no hope of more. They shew 

1744] SWIFT. 269 

the age involved in darkness, and shade the picture with sullen 

When the Queen's death drove him into Ireland, he might 
be allowed to regret for a time the interception of his views, 
the extinction of his hopes, and his ejection from gay scenes, 
important employment, and splendid friendships ; but when 
time had enabled reason to prevail over vexation, the com- 
plaints, which at first were natural, became ridiculous because 
they were useless. But querulousness was now grown habitual, 
and he cried out when he probably had ceased to feel. His 
reiterated wailings persuaded Bolingbroke that he was really 
willing to quit his Deanery for an English parish ; and Boling- 
broke procured an exchange, which was rejected, and Swift 
still retained the pleasure of complaining. 

The greatest difficulty that occurs, in analysing his character, 
is to discover by what depravity of intellect he took delight in 
revolving ideas, from which almost every other mind shrinks 
with disgust. The ideas of pleasure, even when criminal, may 
solicit the imagination ; but what has disease, deformity, and 
filth, upon which the thoughts can be allured to dwell ? Delany 
is willing to think that Swift's mind was not much tainted with 
this gross corruption before his long visit to Pope. He does 
not consider how he degrades his hero, by making him at 
fifty-nine the pupil of turpitude, and liable to the malignant 
influence of an ascendant mind. But the truth is, that Gulliver 
had described his Yahoos before the visit, and he that had 
formed those images had nothing filthy to learn. 

I have here given the character of Swift as he exhibits him- 
self to my perception ; but now let another be heard, who 
knew him better. Dr. Delany, after long acquaintance, 
describes him to Lord Orrery in these terms : 

" My Lord, when you consider Swift's singular, peculiar and 
most variegated vein of wit, always rightly intended (although ^ 
not always so rightly directed), delightful in many instances,, 
and salutary, even where it is most offensive; when you 

270 SWIFT. [1667— 

consider his strict truth, his fortitude in resisting oppression and 
arbitrary power ; his fidelity in friendship, his sincere love and 
zeal for religion, his uprightness in making right resolutions, 
and his steadiness in adhering to them ; his care of his church, 
its choir, its oeconomy, and its income ; his attention to all 
those that preached in his cathedral, in order to their amend- 
ment in pronunciation and style ; as also his remarkable 
attention to the interest of his successors, preferably to his 
own present emoluments ; invincible patriotism, even to a 
country which he did not love ; his very various, well-devised, 
well-judged, and extensive charities, throughout his life, and 
his whole fortune (to say nothing of his wife's) conveyed to the 
same Christian purposes at his death ; charities from which he 
could enjoy no honour, advantage or satisfaction of any kind 
in this world. When you consider his ironical and humorous, 
as well as his serious schemes, for the promotion of true religion 
and virtue ; his success in soliciting for the First Fruits and 
Twentieths, to the unspeakable benefit of the established 
Church of Ireland ; and his felicity (to rate it no higher) in 
giving occasion to the building of fifty new churches in 

"All this considered, the character of his life will appear 
like that of his writings; they will both bear to be re-considered' 
and re-examined with the utmost attention, and always discover 
new beauties and excellences upon every examination. 

" They will bear to be considered as the sun, in which the 
brightness will hide the blemishes ; and whenever petulant 
ignorance, pride, malice, malignity, or envy, interposes to 
cloud or sully his fame, I will take upon me to pronounce that 
the eclipse will not last long. 

" To conclude — no man ever deserved better of any country 
than Swift did of his. A steady, persevering, inflexible friend; 
a wise, a watchful, and a faithful counsellor, under many severe 
trials and bitter persecutions, to the manifest hazard both of 
his liberty and fortune. 

1744] SWIFT. 271 

" He lived a blessing, he died a benefactor, and his name 
will ever live an honour to Ireland." 

In the Poetical Works of Dr. Swift there is not much upon 
which the critick can exercise > his powers. They are often 
humorous, almost always light, and have the qualities which 
recommend such compositions, easiness and gaiety. They 
are, for the most part, what their author intended. The diction 
is correct, the numbers are smooth, and the rh)mies exact. 
There seldom occurs a hard-laboured expression, or a redun- 
dant epithet ; all his verses exemplify his own definition of a 
good style, they consist oi proper words in proper places. 

To divide this Collection into classes, and shew how some 
pieces are gross, and some are trifling, would be to tell the 
reader what he knows already, and 'to find faults of which the 
author could not be ignorant, who certainly wrote often not 
to his judgement, but his humour. 

It was said, in a Preface to one of the Irish editions, that 
Swift had never been known to take a single thought from 
any writer, ancient or modern. This is not literally true ; but 
perhaps no writer can easily be found that has borrowed so 
little, or that in all his excellences and all his defects has so 
well maintained his claim to be considered as original. 


1672 — 1719. 

Joseph Addison was born on the first of May, 1672, at 
Milston, of which his father, Lancelot Addison, was then 
rector, near Ambrosbury in Wiltshire, and appearing weak 
and unlikely to live, he was christened the same day. After 
the usual domestick education, which, from the character of 
his father, may be reasonably supposed to have given him 
strong impressions of piety, he was committed to the care of 
Mr. Naish at Ambrosbury, and afterwards of Mr. Taylor at 

Not to name the school or the masters of men illustrious 
for literature is a kind of historical fraud, by which honest 
fame is injuriously diminished : I would therefore trace him 
through the whole process of his education. In 1683, in the 
beginning of his twelfth year, his father being made Dean of 
Lichfield, naturally carried his family to his new residence, 
and, I believe, placed him for some time, probably not long, 
under Mr. Shaw, then master of the school at Lichfield, father 
of the late Dr. Peter Shaw. Of this interval his biographers 
have given no account, and I know it only from a story of 
a barring-out, told me, when I was a boy, by Andrew Corbet 
of Shropshire, who had heard it from Mr. Pigot his uncle. 

274 ADDISON. [1S72— 

The practice of barring-out, was a savage license, practised 
in many schools to the end of the last century, by which the 
boys, when the periodical vacation drew near, growing petu- 
lant at the approach of liberty, some days before the time of 
regular recess, took possession of the school, of which they 
barred the doors, and bade their master defiance from the 
windows. It is not easy to suppose that on such occasions 
the master would do more than laugh ; yet, if tradition may 
be credited, he often struggled hard to force or surprise the 
garrison. The master, when Pigot was a school-boy, was 
barred-out at Lichfield, and the whole operation, as he said, 
was planned and conducted by Addison. 

'■"-■■ To judge better of the probability of this story, I have 
enquired when he was sent to the Chartreux ; but, as he was 
not one of those who enjoyed the~Tounder's benefaction, 
there is no account preserved of his admission. At the school 
of the Chartreux, to which he was removed either from that of 
Salisbury or Lichfield, he pursued his juvenile studies under the 
care of Dr. Ellis, and contracted that intimacy with Sir Richard 
Steele which their joint labours have so effectually recorded. 

Of this memorable friendship the greater praise must be 
given to Steele. It is not hard to love those from whom 
nothing can be feared, and Addison never considered Steele 
as a rival ; but Steele lived, as he confesses, under an habitual 
subjection to the predominating genius of Addison, whom he 
always mentioned with reverence, and treated with obsequious- 

Addison,' who knew his own dignity, could not always 
forbear to shew it, by playing a little upon his admirer ; but he 
was in no danger of retort : his jests were endured without 
resistance or resentment. 

But the sneer of jocularity was not the worst. Steele, whose 
imprudence of generosity, or vanity of profusion, kept him 
always incurably necessitous, upon some pressing exigence, in 

1719] ADDISON. 275 

an evil hour borrowed a hundred pounds of hig friend, 
probably without much purpose of repayment ^ but Addison, 
who seems to have had other notions of an hundred pounds, 
grew impatient of delay, and reclaimed his loan by an execution. 
Steele felt with great sensibility the obduracy of his creditor ; 
but with emotions of sorrow rather than, of anger. 

In 1687 he was e ntered into Qu een's College in Oxford, 
where, in 1689, the accidental perusal of some Latin verses 
gained him the patronage of Dr. Lancaster, afterwards provost 
of Queen's College ■; by whose recommendation he was elected 
into Magdalen College as a Demy, a term by which that 
society denominates those which are elsewhere called Scholars ; 
young men, who partake of the founder's benefaction, and 
succeed in their order to vacant fellowships.' 

Here he continued to cultivate poetry and criticism, and 
grew first eminent by his Latin compositions, which are indeed 
entitled to particular praise. He has not confeied himself to 
the imitation of any ancient author, but has formed his style 
from the general language, such as a dilige-nt perusal of the 
productions of different ages happened to supply. 

His Latin compositions seem to have had much of his 
fondness ; for he collected a second volume of the Mus» 
A nglicans a, perhaps for a convenient receptacle, in which all 
his Latin pieces are inserted, and where his Poem on the 
Peace has the first place. He afterwards presented the col- 
lection to Boileau, who from that time conceived, says Tickell, 
an opinion of the English genius for poetry. Nothing is better 
known of Boileau, than that he had an injudicious and peevish 
contempt of modern Latin, and therefore his profession of 
regard was probably the effect of his civility rather than 

Three of his Latin poems are upon subjects on which 
perhaps he would not have ventured to have written in his 
own language. The Battle of the Pigmies__aiid Cranes ; The 
^ He took the degree of M. A. Feb. 14, 1693. 

T 2 

376 ADDISON. [1^672— 

Barometer ; and A Bowling-green. When the matter is low or 
scanty, a dead language, in which nothing is mean because 
nothing is familiar, affords great conveniences ; and by the 
/ sonorous magnificence of Roman syllables, the writer con- 
I . ceals penury of thought, and want of novelty, often from the 
reader,, and often from himself. 

In his twenty-second year he first shewed his power of 
English poetry by some verses addressed to Dryden ; and 
soon afterwards published a translation of the greater part of 
the Fourth <Jeorgick upon Bees ; after which, says Dryden, 
my latter swarm is hardly worth the hiving. 

About the same time he composed the arguments prefixed 
to the several books of Dryden's Virgil; and produced an 
Essay on the Georgicks, juvenile, superficial, and uninstructive, 
without much either_ of the scholar's learning or the critick's 

His next paper of verses contained a character of the 
principal English poets, inscribed to Henry Sacheverell, who 
was then, if not a poet, a writer of verses ; as is shewn by his 
version of a small part of Virgil's Georgicks, published in the 
Miscellanies, and a Latin encomium on Queen Maiy, in the 
Musse Anglicanse. These verses exhibit all the fondness of 
friendship ; but on one side or the other, friendship was 
afterwards too weak for the malignity of faction. 

In this poem is a very confident and discriminative character 
of Spenser, whose work he had then never read.' So little 
sometimes is criticism the effect of judgement. It is necessary to 
inform the reader, that about this time he was introduced by 
Congreve to Montague, then Chancellor of the Exchequer: 
Addison was then learning the trade of a courtier, and 
subjoined Montague as a poetical name to those of Cowley 
and of Dryden. 

By the influence of Mr. Montague, concurring, according to 
Tickell, with his natural modesty, he was diverted from his 
' Spence. 


1719] ADDISON. 277 

original design of entering into holy orders. Montague 
alleged the corruption of men who engaged in civil employ- 
ments without liberal education ; and declared, that, though 
he was represented as an eriemy to the Church, he would never 
do it any injury but by withholding Addison from, it. 

Soon after (in 1695) he wrote a poem to King William, with 
a rhyming introduction addressed to Lord Somers. King 
William had no regard to elegance or literature ; his study was 
only war ; yet by a choice of ministers, whose disposition was 
very different from his own, he procured, without intention, a 
very liberal patronage to poetry, Addison was caressed both 
by Somers and Montague. 

In 1697 appeared his Latin verses on the Peace of Ryswick, 
which he dedicated to Montague, and which was afterwards 
called by Smith iAe best Latin poem since the ^neid. Praise 
must not be too rigorously examined; but the performance 
cannot be denied to be vigorous and elegant. 

Having yet no public employment, he obtained (in 1699) 
a pension of three hundred pounds a year, that he might be ^, //i 
enabled to travel. He staid a year at Blois,i probably to learn i^ff 
the French language ; and then proceeded in his journey to ,- 

Italy, which he surveyed with the e;^fis_of-a-poet.- 

While he was travelling at leisure, he was far from being 
idle; for he not only collected his observations on the 
country, but found time to write his Dialogues on Medals, and j 
four__Acts_of Cato. Such at least is the relation of Tickell. I 
Perhaps he only collected his materials, and formed his plan. \ 

Whatever were his other employments in Italy, he there 
wrote the Letter to Lord Halifax, which is justly considered as 
the most elegant, if not the most sublime, of his poetical 
productions. But in about two years he found it necessary to 
hasten home ; being, as Swift informs us, distressed by indi 
gence, and compelled to become the tutor of a travelhng 
Squire, because his pension was not remitte J. 
^ Spence. 

278 ADDISON. [1672— 

At his return he published his Travels, with a dedication to 
Lord Somers. As his stay in foreign countries was short, his 
observations are such as might be supplied by a hasty view, 
and consist chiefly in comparisons of th« present face of the 
country with the descriptions left us by the Roman poets, from 
whom he made preparatory collections, though he might have 
spared the trouble, had he known that such collections had 
been made twice before by Italian authors. 

The most amusing passage of his book, is his account of the 
minute republick of San Marino ; of many parts it is not a 
very severe censure to say that they might have been written 
at home. His elegance of language, and variegation of prose 
and verse, however, gains upon the reader ; and the book, 
though a while neglected, became in time so much the favourite 
of the publick, that before it was reprinted it rose to five times 
its price. 

When he returned to England (in 170-2), with a meanness of 
appearance which gave testimony of the difficulties to which 
he had been reduced, he found his old patrons out of power, 
and was therefore for a time at full leisure- for the cultivation of 
his mind, and a mind so cukivated gives reason to believe that 
little time was lost. 

But he remained not long neglected or useless. The victory 
a t Blenhei m (1704) spread triumph and confidence over the 
nation ; and Lord Godolphin lamenting to Lord Halifax, that 
it had not been celebrated in a manner equal to the subject, 
desired him to propose it to some better poet. Halifax told 
him that there was no encouragement for genius ; that worth- 
less men were unprofitably enriched with publick money, 
without any care to find or employ those whose appearance 
might do honour to their country. To this Godolphin replied, 
that such abuses should in time be rectified ; and that if a man 
could be found capable of the task then proposed, he should 
not want an ample recompense. Halifax then named Addison ; 
but required that the Treasurer should apply to him in his own 

1719] ADDISON. 279 

person. Godolphin sent the message by Mr. Boyle, afterv5rards f'lj. 
Lord Carleton ; and Addison having undertaken the work, /^ 1 
communicated it to the Treasurer, while it was yet advanced ^^'^'r' 
no further than the simile jof_the Angel, and was immediately 
rewarded by succeeding Mr. Locke in the place of Commis- 
sioner of Appeals. 

In the following year he was at Hanover with Lord Halifax ; 
and the year after was made under-secretary of state, first to 
Sir Charles Hedges, and in a few months more to the Earl of 

About this time the prevalent taste for Italian operas in- 
clined him to try what would be the effect of a musical Drama 
in our own language. He therefore wrote the opera of Rosa- 
mond, which, when exhibited on the stage, was either hissed 
or neglected ; but trusting that the readers would do him more 
justice, he published it, with an inscription to the Duchess of 
Marlborough ; a woman without skill, or pretensions to skill, 
in poetry or literature. His dedication was therefore an 
instance of servile absurdity, to be exceeded only by Joshua 
Barnes's dedication of a Greek Anacreon to the Duke. 

His reputation had been somewhat advanced by The 
Tender Husband, a comedy which Steele dedicated to him, 
with a confession that he owed to him several of the most 
successful scenes. To this play Addison supplied a prologue. 

When the Marquis of Wharton was appointed Lord-lieutenant 
of Ireland, Addison attended him as his secretary ; and was 
made keeper of the records in Birmingham's Tower, with a 
salary of three hundred pounds a year. The office was little 
more than nominal, and the salary was augmented for his 

Interest and faction allow little to the operation of particulai 
dispositions, or private opinions. Two men of personal 
characters more opposite than those of Wharton and Addison 
could not easily be brought together. Wharton was impious, 
profligate, and shameless, without regard, or appearance of 

28o ADDISON. [1672— 

regard, to right and wrong : whatever is contrary to this, may 
be said of Addison ; but as agents of a party they were 
connected, and how they adjusted their other sentiments we 
cannot know. 

Addison must however not be too hastily condemned. It is 
not necessary to refuse benefits from a bad man, when the 
acceptance impHes no approbation of his crimes ; nor has the 
subordinate officer any obHgation to examine the opinions 
or conduct of those under whom he acts, except that he may 
not be made the instrument of wickedness. It is reasonable 
to suppose that Addison counteracted, as far as he was able,'- 
the malignant and blasting influence of the Lieutenant, and 
that at least by his intervention some good was done, and some 
mischief prevented. 

When he was in office, he made a law to himself, as Swift has 
recorded, never to remit his regular fees in civility to his 
friends : " For,'' said he, " I may have a hundred friends ; and, 
if my fee be two guineas, I shall, by relinquishing my right 
lose two hundred guineas, and no friend gain more than two ; 
there is therefore no proportion between the good imparted and 
the evil suffered." 

He was in Ireland when Steele, without any communication 
of his design, began the publication of the Tatler ; but he was 
not long concealed : by inserting a remark on Virgil, which 
Addison had given him, he discovered himself. It is indeed 
not easy for any man to write upon hterature, or common life, 
so as not to make himself known to those with whom he 
familiarly converses, and who are acquainted with his track of 
study, his favourite topicks, his peculiar notions, and his 
habitual phrases. 

If Steele desired to write in secret, he was not lucky ; a 
single month detected him. His first Tatler was published 
April 22 (1709), and Addison's contribution- appeared May 26. 
Tickell observes, that the Tatler began and was coii- 
cluded without his Concurrence. This is doubtless literally 

1719] ADDISON. 281 

true; but the work did not suffer much by his unconscious- 
ness of its commencement, or his absence at its cessation ; for 
he continued his assistance to December 23, and the paper 
stopped on January 2. He did not distinguish his pieces by 
Sny Signature ; and I know not whether his name was not kept 
Secret, till the papers were collected into volumes. 

To the Tatler, in about two months, succeeded the Spectator ; 
a series of essays of the same kind, but written with less 
levity, upon a more regular plan, and pubhshed daily. Such 
an undertaking shewed the writers not to distrust their own 
copiousness of materials or facility of composition, and their 
performance justified their confidence. They found, however, 
in their progress, many auxiliaries. To attempt a single paper 
was no terrifying labour : many pieces were offered, and many 
were received. 

Addison had enough of the zeal of party, but Steele had at 
that time almost nothing else. The Spectator, in one of the ^ 
first papers, shewed the political tenets of its authors; but C 
a resolution was soon taken, of courting general approbation by 
general topicks, and subjects on which faction had produced no 
diversity of sentiments ; such as literature, morality, and famiKar 
life. To this practice they adhered with very few deviations. 
The ardour of Steele once broke out in praise of Marlborough ; 
g^nd when Dr. Fleetwood prefixed to some sermons a preface, 
overflowing with whiggish opinions, that it might be read by 
the Queen, it was reprinted in the Spectator. 

To teach the minuter decencies and inferior duties, to 
""egulate the practice of daily conversation, to correct those 
depravities which are rather ridiculous than criminal, and 
remove those grievances which, if they produce no lasting 
calamities, impress hourly vexation, was first attempted by 
Casa in his book of Manners, and Castiglione in his Courtier ; 
two books yet celebrated in Italy for purity and elegance, and 
which, if they are now less read, are neglected only because 
they have effected that reformation which their authors 

282 ADDISON. [1672— 

intended, and their precepts now are no longer wanted. 
Their usefulness to the age in which they were written is 
sufficiently attested by the translations which almost all the 
nations of Europe were in haste to obtain. 

This species of instruction was continued, and perhaps 
advanced, by the French ; among whom LaBruyere's Manners 
of the Age, though, as Boileau remarked, it is written without 
connection, certainly deserves great praise, for liveliness of 
description and justness of observation. 

Before the Tatler and Spectator, if the writers for the theatre 
are excepted, England had no masters of common life. No 
writers had yet undertaken to reform either the savageness of 
neglect, or the impertinence ■ of civility ; to shew when to 
speak, or to be silent ; how to refuse, or how to comply. We 
had many books to teach us our more important duties, and 
> to settle opinions in philosophy or politicks ; but an Arbiter 
t^P"" elegantiarum, a judge of propriety, was yet wanting, who should 
survey the track of daily conversation, and free it from thorns 
and prickles, which teaze the passer, though they do not 
wound him. 

For this purpose nothing is so proper as the frequent 
publication of short papers, which we read not as study but 
amusement. If the subject be slight, the treatise likewise is 
short. The busy may find time, and the idle may find patience. 

This mode of conveying cheap and easy knowledge began 
among us in the Civil War, when it was much the interest of 
either party to raise and fix the prejudices of the people. At 
that time appeared Mercurius Aulicus, Mercurius Rusticus, 
and Mercurius Civicus. It is said, that when any title grew 
popular, it was stolen by the antagonist, who by this stratagem 
conveyed his notions to those who would not have received 
him had he not worn the appearance of a friend. The tumult 
of those unhappy days left scarcely any man leisure to treasure 
up occasional compositions ; and so much were they neglected, 
that a complete collection is no where to be found. 

1719] ADDISON. 283 

Theae Mercuries were succeeded by L'Estrange's Observator, 
and that by Lesley's Rehearsal, and perhaps by others ; but 
hitherto nothing had been conveyed to the people, in this 
commodious manner, but controversy relating to the Church or 
State ; of which they taught many to talk, whom they could / 

not teach to judge. . • fj 

It has been suggested that the Royal Society was instituted j.'^-^-"-'' 
soon after the Restoration, to divert the attention of the people 
from public discontent. The Tatler and the Spectator had the 
same tendency ; they were published at a time when two parties, 
loud, restless, and violent, each with plausible declarations, 
and each perhaps without any distinct termination of its views, 
were agitating the nation ; to minds heated with political 
contest, they supplied coaler and more inoffensive reflections ; 
and it is said by Addison, in a subsequent work, that they had 
a perceptible influence upon the conversation of that time, and ' 
taught the frolick and the gay to unite merriment with decency; 
an effect which they can never wholly lose, while they continue 
to be among the first books by which both sexeg are initiated 
in the elegances of knowledge. 

The Tatler and Spectator adjusted, like Casa, the unsettled 
practice of daily intercourse by propriety and politeness ; and> 
like La Bruyere, exhibited the Characters and Manners of the 
Age. The persons introduced in these papers were not merely 
ideal ; they were then known and conspicuous in various 
stations. Of the Tatler this is told by Steele in his last paper, 
and of the Spectator by Budgell in the Preface to Theophraatus; /< ff / 
a book which Addison has recommended, and which he was(*/fc^,> 
suspected to have revised, if he did not write it. Of those X^^TT 
portraits, which may be supposed to be sometimes embellished, \\k^ 
and sometimes aggravated, the originals are now partly known, 'Yf 
and partly forgotten. fcLiO ; 

But to say that they united the plans of two or three C-iTt< 
eminent writers, is to give them but a small part of their due /' '-' 
praise ; they superadded literature and criticism, and some- ' ' ,',i< 

284 ADDISON. [1672- 

times towered far above their predecessors ; and taught, with 
great justness of argument and dignity of language, the most 
important duties and subHme truths* 

All these topicks were happily varied with elegant fictions 
and refined allegories, and illuminated with different changes of 
style and felicities of invention. 

It is recorded by Budgell, that of the characters feigned or 

exhibited in the Spectator, the favourite of Addison was: Sir 

Roger de Coverley, of whom he had formed a very delicate and 

discriminated idea, which he would not suffer to be violated ; 

f^> and therefore when Steele had shewn him innocently picking 

/ up a girl in the Temple and taking her to a tavern, he drew 

upon himself so much of his friend's indignation, that he was 

', forced to appease him by a promise of forbearing Sir Roger for 

the time to come. 

The reason which induced Cervantes to bring his hero to 
the grave, ^ara mi sola nacio Don Quixote, y yo para el, made 
Addison declare, with an undue vehemence of expression, that 
he would kill Sir Roger ; being of opinion that they were born 
for one another, and that any other hand would do him 

It may be doubted whether Addison ever filled up his 
original deUneation. He describes his Knight as having his 
imagination somewhat warped ; but of this perversion he has 
made very little use. The irregularities in Sir Roger's conduct 
seem not so much the effects of a mind deviating from the 
beaten track of life, by the perpetual pressure of some over- 
whelming idea, as of habitual rusticity, and that negligence 
which solitarx_grandeur naturally generates. 

The variable weather of the mind, the flying vapours of in- 
cipient madness, which from time to time cloud reason, without 
eclipsing it, it requires so much nicety to exhibit, that Addison 
seems to have been deterred from prosecuting his own design. 

To Sir Roger, who, as a country gentleman, appears to be a 
Tory, or, as it is gently expressed, an adherent to the landed 

J 719] ADDISON. 285 

interest, is opposed Sir Andrew Freeport, a nevpoaan, a wealthy 
merchant, zealous for the moneyed interest, and a Whig. Of 
this contrariety of opinions, it is probable more consequences 
were at first intended, than could be produced when the reso- 
lution was taken to exclude party from the paper. Sir Andrew 
does but little, and that little seems not to have pleased 
Addison, who, when he dismissed him from the club, changed 
his opinions. Steele had made him, in the true spirit of un- 
feeling commerce, declare that he would 7iot build an hospital 
for idle people; but at last he buys land, settles in the 
country, and builds not a manufactory, but an hospital for 
twelve old husbandmen, for men with whom a merchant has 
Httle acquaintance, and whom he commonly considers with 
little kindness. 

Of essays thus elegant, thus instructive, and thus com- 
modiously distributed, it is natural to suppose the approbation 
general and the sale numerous. I once heard it observed, that 
the sale may be calculated by the product of the tax, related in 
the last number to produce more than twenty pounds a week, 
and therefore stated at one and twenty pounds, or three pounds 
ten shillings a day : this, at a half-penny a paper, will give six- 
teen hundred and eighty for the daily number. 

This sale is not great; yet this, if Swift be credited, was 
likely to grow less ; for he declares that the Spectator, whom 
he ridicules ifor his endless mention of the fair sex, had before 
his recess^ wearied his readers. 

The next year (1713), in which Cato came upon the stage, 
was the grand climacterick of Addison's reputation. Upon the 
death of Cato, he had, as is said, planned a the time of 
his travels, and had for several years the four first acts finished, 
which were shewn to such as were likely to spread their 
admiration. They were seen by Pope, and by Gibber ; who 
relates that Steele, when he took back the copy, told him, in 
the despicable.jcant oLliterary modesty, that, whatever spirit 
his friend had shewn in the composition, he doubted whether 

/: L^ iW^ 


2S6 t'''"'-*" ' ADDISON. [1672— 

he would have courage sufficient to expose it to the censure of 
a British audience. 

The time however was now come, when those wlio affected 
to think liberty in danger, affected likewise to think that a 
stage-play might preserve it : and Addison was importuned, 
in the name of the tutelary deities of Britain, to shew his 
courage and his zeal by finishing his design. 

To resume his work he seemed perversely and unaccountably 
unwilling ; and by a request, which perhaps he wished to be 
denied, desired Mr. Hughes to add a fifth act. Hughes 
supposed him serious ; and, undertaking the supplement, 
brought in a few days some scenes for his examination ;, but he 
had in the mean time gone to work himself, and produced 
half an act, which he afterwards completed, but with brevity 
irregularly disproportionate to the foregoing parts ; like a task 
performed with reluctance, and hurried to its conclusion. 

It may yet be doubted whether Cato was made publick by 
any change of the author's purpose ; for Dennis charged him 
with raising prejudices in his own favour by false positions of 
preparatory criticism, and with poisoning the town by con- 
tradicting in the Spectator the establish e(^ rule of poetical 
justice, because his own hero, with all his virtues, was to fall 
before a tyrant. The fact is certain ; the motives we must 

Addison was, I believe, sufficiently disposed to bar all 
avenues against all danger. When Pope brought him the 
prologue, which is properly accommodated to the play, there 
were these words, Britons, arise, be worth like this approved; 
meaning nothing more than, Britons, erect and exalt yourselves 
to the approbation of public virtue! Addison was frighted lest 
he should be thought a promoter of insurrection, and the line 
was liquidated to. Britons, attend. 

Now, heavily in clouds came on the day, the great, the im- 
portant day, when Addison was to stand the hazard of the 
theatre. That there might, however, be left as little to hazard 

1719] ADDISON. 287 

as was possible, on the first night Steele, as himself relates, 
undertook to pack an audience. This, says Pope,^ had been "^ 
tried for the first time in favour of the Distress Mother ; and i .v.' 
was now, with more efficacy, practised for Cato. 

The danger was soon over. The whole nation was at that 
time on fire with faction. The Whigs applauded every line in 
which Liberty was mentioned, as a satire on the Tories ; and 
the Tories echoed every clap, to shew that the satire was unfelt. 
The story of Bolingbroke is well known. He called Booth 
to his box, and gave him fifty guineas for defending the cause 
of Liberty so well against a perpetual^dictator. The Whigs, 
says Pope, design a second present, when they can accompany 
it with as good a sentence. 

The play, supported thus by the emulation of factious praise, 
was acted night after night for a longer time than, I believe, 
the publick had allowed to any drama before ; and the author, 
as Mrs. Potter long afterwards related, wandered through the 
whole exhibition behind the scenes with restless and unappeas- 
able solicitude. 

When it was printed, notice was given that the Queen would 
be pleased if it was dedicated to her ; duf as he had designed 
that compliment elsewhere, he found himself obliged, says Tickell, 
by his duty on the one hand, and his honour on the other, to send 
it into the world without any dedication. 

Human happiness has always its abatements ; the brightest 
sun-shine of success is not without a cloud. No sooner was 
Cato offered to the reader, than it was attacked by the acute 
malignity of Dennis, with all the violence of angry criticism. 
Dennis, though equally zealous, and probably by his temper 
more furious than Addison, for what they called Liberty, and 
though a flatterer of the Whig ministry, could not sit quiet at a 
successful play; but was eager to tell friends and enemies, that 
they had misplaced their admirations. The world was too 
stubborn for instruction; with the fate of the censurer of 
■■ Spence. 

288 ^ ADDISON. [1672— 

Corneille's Cid, his animadversions shewed his anger without 
effect, and Cato continued to be praised. 

Pope had now an opportunity of courting the friendship of 
Addison, by viUfying his old enemy, and could give resentment 
its full play without appearing to revenge himself. He there- 
fore published A Narrative of the Madness of John Dennis ; a 
performance which left the objections to the play in their full 
force, and therefore discovered more desire of vexing the 
critick than of defending the poet. 

Addison, who was no . stranger to the world, probably saw 
the selfishness of Pope's friendship; and, resolving that he 
should have the consequences of his officiousness to himself, 
informed Dennis by Steele, that he was sorry for the insult: 
and that whenever he should think fit to answer his remarks, 
he would do it in a manner to which nothing could be 

The greatest weakness of the play is in the scenes of love, 
which are said by Pope^ to have been added to the original 
plan upon a subsequent review, in compliance with the popular 
practice of the stage. Such an authority it is hard to reject ; 
yet the love is so intimately mingled with the .whole action, 
that it cannot easily be thought extrinsick and adventitious ; 
for if it were taken away, what would be left ? or how were the 
four acts filled in the first draught ? 

At the publication the Wits seemed proud to pay their 
attendance with encomiastick verses. The best are from an 
unknown hand, which will perhaps lose somewhat of their 
praise when the author is known to be Jeffreys. 

Cato had yet other honours. It was censured as a party- 
play by a Scholar of Oxford, and defended in a favourable 
examination by Dr. Sewel. It was translated by Salvani into 
Italian, and acted at Florence ; and by the Jesuits of St. 
Omer's into Latin, and played by their pupils. Of this version 
a copy was sent to Mr. Addison : it is to be wished that it 
^ Spence. ., k 1 ■- 

1719] ADDISON. aSEi 

could be found, for the sake of comparing their version of the 
soliloquy with that of Bland. 

A tragedy was written on the same subject by Des Champs, 
a French poet, which was translated, with a criticism on the 
English play. But the translator and the critick are now 

Dennis lived on unanswered, and therefore little read : 
Addison knew the policy of literature too well to make his 
enemy ■ important, by drawing the attention of the publick 
upon a criticism, which, though sometimes intemperate, was 
often irrefragable. 

While Cato was upon the stage, another daily paper, called 
The Guardiari, was published by Steele. To this Addison 
gave great assistance, whether occasionally or by previous 
engagement is not known. 

The character of Guardian was too narrow and too serious : 
it might properly enough admit both the duties and the decencies 
of life, but seemed not to include literary speculations, and 
was in some degree violated by merriment and burlesque. 
What had the Guardian of the Lizards to do with clubs of 
tall or of little men, with nests of ants, or with Strada's 
prolusions ? 

Of this paper nothing is necessary to be said, but that it 
found many contributors, and that it was a continuation of the 
Spectator, with the same elegance, and the same variety, till 
some unlucky sparkle from a Tory paper set Steele's politics 
on fire, and wit at once blazed into faction. He was soon too 
hot for neutral topicks, and quitted the Guardian to write the 

The papers of Addison are marked in the Spectator by one 
of the Letters in the name of Clio, and in the Guardian by 
a hand; whether it was, as Tickell pretends to think, that he 
was unwilling to usurp the praise of others, or as Steele, with 
far greater likelihood, insinuates, that he could not without 
discontent impart to others any of his own. I have heard 

V..' ^ " I, , ,'; ^ . ,. 

29P ADDISON, [1672— 

that his avidity did not satisfy itself with the air of renown, 
but that with great eagerness he laid hold on his proportion 
of the profits. 

Many of these papers were written with powers truly comick, 
with nice discrimination of characters, and accurate observa- 

,tion of natural or accidental de viations from pro priety ; but it 
was not supposed that he had tried a comedy on the stage, 
till Steele, after his death, declared him the author of The 
Drummer; this however Steele did not know to be true by 
any direct testimony ; for when Addison put the play into his 
hands, he only told him, it was the work of a Gentleman in 
the Company ; and when it was received, as is confessed, with 
cold disapprobation, he was probably less willing to claim it. 
Tickell (jraitted it in his collection; but the testimony of Steele, 
and the total silence of any other claimant, has determined the 
publick to assign it to Addison, and it is now printed with his 
other poetry. Steele carried The Drummer to the playhouse, 
and afterwards to the press, and sold the copy for fifty guineas. 
To the opinion of Steele may be added the proof supplied 
by the play itself, of which the characters are such as Addison 
would have delineated, and the tendency such as Addison 
would have promoted. That it should have been ill received 
would raise wonder, did we not daily see the capricious 

' distribution of theatrical praise. 

He was not all this time an indiiferent spectator of publick 
affairs. He wrote, as different exigences required (in 1707), 
The present State of the War, and the Necessity of an 
Augmentation; which, however judicious, being written on 
temporary topicks, and exhibiting no peculiar powers, laid 
hold on no attention, and has naturally sunk by its own weight 
into neglect. This cannot be said of the few papers entitled 
The Whig Examiner, in which is employed all the force of 
gay malevolence and humorous satire. Of this paper, which 
just appeared and expired, Swift remarks, with exultation, that 
it is now down among the dead men. He might well rejoice 

1 719] ADDISON. 


at the death of that which he could not have killed. Every 
reader of every party, since personal malice is past, and the 
papers which once inflamed the nation are read only as effusions - 
of wit, must wish for more of the Whig Exami ixers-; for on no 
occasion was the genius of Addison more vigorously exerted, ''■ 
and on none did the superiority of his powers more evidently ' 
appear. His Trial of Count Tariff, written to expose the 
Treaty of Commerce with France, lived no longer than the 
question that produced it. 

Not long afterwards an attempt was made to revive the 
Spectator, at a time indeed by no means favourable to 
literature, when the succession of a new family to the throne 
filled the nation with anxiety, discord, and confusion; and 
either the turbulence of the times, or the satiety of the readers, ^ 
put a stop to the publication, after an experiment of eighty 
numbers, which were afterwards collected into an eighth 
volume, perhaps more valuable than any one of those that 
went before it. Addison produced more than a fourth part, 
and the other contributors are by no means unworthy of 
appearing as his associates. The time that had passed during 
the suspension of the Spectator, though it had not lessened 
his power of humour, seems to have increased his disposition 
to seriousness : the proportion of his religious to his comick 
papers is greater than in the former series. 

The Spectator, from its recommencement, was published 
Only three times a week ; and no discriminative marks were 
added to the papers. To Addison, Tickell has ascribed 

The Spectator had many contributors; and Steele, whose 
negligence kept him always in a hurry, when it was his turn 
to furnish a paper, called loudly for the Letters, of which 
Addison, whose materials were more, made fittie~iise ; having 
recourse to sketches and hints, the product of his former 

1 Numb. 556, 557, 558, 559, 561, 562, 565, 567, 568, 5,69, 571, 574, 
575. 579. 580, 5.82. 583. 584. 585. 5'5o. 592, 598, 600. 

U 2 

/. / 

292 ADDISON. [1672— 

Studies, -which he now reviewed and completed : among these 
are named by Tickell the Essays on Wit, those on the Pleasures 
of the Imagination, and the Criticism on Milton. 

When the House of Hanover took possession of the throne, 
it was reasonable to expect that the zeal of Addison would be 
suitably rewarded. Before the arrival of King George, he was 
made secretary to the regency, and was required by his office 
to send notice to Hanover that the Queen was dead, and that 
the throne was vacant. To do this would not have been 
difficult to any man but Addison, who was so overwhelmed 
with the greatness of the event, and so distracted by choice of 
expression, that the Lords, who could not wait for the niceties 
of criticism, called Mr. Southwell, a clerk in the house, and 
ordered him to dispatch the message. Southwell readily told 
what was necessary, in the common style of business, and 
valued himself upon having done what was too hard for 

He was better qualified for the Freeholder, a paper which he 
published twice a week, from Dec. 23, 17 15, to the middle of 
the next year. This was undertaken in defence of the estab- 
lished government, sometimes with argument, sometimes with 
mirth. In argument he had many equals ; but his humour 
was singular and matchless. Bigotry itself must be delighted 
with the Tory-Fox-hunter. 

There are however some strokes less elegant, and less 
decent ; such as the Pretender's Journal, in which one topick 
of ridicule is his poverty. This mode of abuse had been 
employed by Milton against King Charles II. 

" — — — — — Jacobcsi. 
Centum exulantis viscera Marsupii regis." 

And Oldmixon delights to tell of some alderman of London, 
that he had more money than the exiled princes ; but that 
which might be expected from Milton's savageness, or Old- 
mixon's meanness, was not suitable to the delicacy of Addison 

1719] ADDISON. 293 

Steele thought the humour of the Freeholder too nice and 
gentle for such noisy times ; and is reported to have said that 
the ministry made use of a lute, when they should have called 
for a trumpet. 

This year (1716)' he married the Countess Dowager of 
Warwick, whom he had solicited by a very long and anxious 
courtship, perhaps with behaviour not very unlike that of Sir 
Roger to his disdainful widow : and who, I am afraid, diverted I 
herself often by playing with his passion. He is said to have 
first known her by becoming tutor to her son.^' " He formed," 
said Tonson, " the design of getting that lady, from the time 
when he was first recommended into the family.'' In what 
part of his life he obtained the recommendation, or how long, 
and in what manner he lived in the family, I know not. His 
advances at first were certainly timorous, but grew bolder as his 
reputation and influence increased ; till at last the lady was 
persuaded to marry him, on terms much like those on which a 
Turkish princess is espoused, to whom the Sultan is reported 
to pronounce, "Daughter, I give thee this man for thy slave." 
The marriage, if uncontradicted report can be credited, made 
no addition to his happiness ; it neither found them nor made 
them equal. She always remembered her own rank, and 
thought herself entitled to treat with very little ceremony the 
tutor of her son. Rowe's ballad of the Despairing Shepherd 
is said to have been written, either before or after marriage, 
upon this memorable pair ; and it is certain that Addison has 
left behind him no encouragement for ambitious love. 

The year after (17 17) he rose to his highest elevation, being 
made secretary of state. For this employment he might be 
justly supposed qualified by long practice of business, and 
by his regular ascent through other offices ; but expectation is 
often disappointed ; it is universally confessed that he was 
unequal to the duties of his place. In the House of Commons 
he could not speak, and therefore was useless to the defence of 
' August 2. ^.S pence. 


294 ADDISON. [1672— 

the Government. Ip the office, says Pope,' he could not issue 
an order without losing his time in quest of fine expressions. 
What he gained in rank, he lost in credit; and, finding by 
experience his own inability, was forced to solicit his dis- 
mission, with a pension of fifteen hundred pounds a year. 
His friends palliated this relinquishment, of which both friends 
and enemies knew the true reason, with an accou nt of d eclining 
health, and the necessity of recess and quiet. 

He now returned to his vocation, and began to plan literary 
occupations for his future life. He purposed a tragedy on the 
death of Socrates ; a story of which, as Tickell remarks, the 
basis is narrow, and to which I know not how love could have 
been appended. There would however have been no want 
either of virtue in the sentiments, or elegance in the language. 

He engaged in a nobler work, a defence of the Christian 
Religion, of which part was published after his death ; and he 
designed to have made a new poetical version of the Psalms. 

These pious compositions Pope imputed== to a selfish motive, 
upon the credit, as he owns, of Tonson ; who having quarrelled 
with Addison, and not loving him, said, that, when he laid 
down the secretary's office, he intended to take orders, and 
obtain a bishoprick ; for, said he, / always thought him a priest 
in his heart. 

That Pope should have thought this conjecture of Tonson 
worth remembrance is a proof, but indeed so far as I have 
found, the only proof, that he retained some malignity from 
their ancient rivalry. Tonson pretended but to guess it; no 
other mortal ever suspected it ; and Pope might have reflected, 
that a man who had been secretary of state, in the ministry of 
Sunderland, knew a nearer way to a bishoprick than by defend- 
ing~K5ligion, or translating the Psalms. 

It is related that he had once a design to make an English 
Dictionary, and that he considered Dr. Tillotson as the writer 
of highest authority. There was formerly sent to me by Mr. 
'.Spence. ^ Sperce. 


1719] .ADDISON. 295 

Locker, clerk of the Leathersellers' Company, who was eminent 
for curiosity and literature, a collection of examples selected 
from Tillotson's works, as Locker said, by Addison. It came 
too late to be of use, so I inspected it but slightly, and re- 
member it indistinctly. I thought the passages too short. 

Addison however did not conclude his life in peaceful 
studies ; but relapsed, when he was near his end, to a political 

It so happened that (1718-19) a controversy was agitated, 
with great vehemence, between those friends of long continu- 
ance, Addison and Steele. It may be asked, in the language 
of Homer, what power or what cause could set them at variance. 
The subject of their dispute was. of great importance. The 
Earl of Sunderland proposed an act called the PeerageJBjll, by 
which the number of peers should be fixed, and the King re- 
strained from any new creation of nobility, unless when an old 
family should be extinct. To this the Lords would naturally 
agree ; and the King, who was yet little acquainted with his 
own prerogative, and, as is now well known, almost indifferent 
to the possessions of the Crown, had been persuaded to consent. 
The only difficulty was found among the Commons, who were 
not likely to approve the perpetual exclusion of themselves 
and their posterity. The bill therefore was eagerly opposed, 
and among others by Sir Robert Walpole, whose speech was 

The Lords might think their dignity diminished by improper 
advancements, and particularly by the introduction of twelve 
new peers at once, to produce a majority of Tories in the last 
reign ; an act of authority violent enough, yet certainly legal, and 
by no means to be compared with that contempt, of national 
right, with which some time afterwards, by the instigation 
of Whiggism, the Commons, chosen by the people for three 
years, chose themselves for seven. But, whatever might be the 
disposition of the Lords, the people had no wish to increase 
their power. The tendency of the bill, as Steele observed in 

296 ADDISON. [1672— 

a letter to the Earl of Oxford, was to introduce an Aristocracy ; 
for a majority in the House of Lords, so limited, would have 
been despotick and irresistible. 

To prevent this subversion of the ancient establishment, 
Steele, whose pen readily seconded his political passions, en- 
deavoured to alarm the nation by a pamphlet called The 
Plebeian ; to this an answer was published by Addison, under 
the title of The Old Whig, in which it is not discovered that 
Steele was then known to be the advocate for the Commons. 
Steele replied by a second Plebeian ; and, whether by ignorance 
or by courtesy, confined himself to his question, without any ■ 
personal notice of his opponent. Nothing hitherto was com- 
mitted against the laws of friendship, or proprieties of decency; 
but controvertists cannot long- retain their kindness for each 
other. The Old Whig answered the Plebeian, and could not 
forbear some contempt of " little Dicky, whose trade it was to 
write pamphlets." " Dicky however did not lose his settled 
veneration for his friend ; but contented himself with quoting 
some lines of Cato, which were at once detection and reproof. 
The bill was laid aside during that session, and Addison died 
before the riext, in which its commitment was rejected by two 
hundred and sixty-five to one hundred and seventy-seven. 

^ Macaulay has conclusively shown that fohnson was wrong in supposing 
that by ' little Dicky ' Addison meant Steele. In an article in the Edin- 
burgh Review (July 1843), on Miss Aikin's Life and Writings of Addison, 
Macaulay says : — " It is asserted in the Biographia Britannica that Addison 
designated Steele as 'little Dicky.' This assertion was repeated by John- 
son, who, had never seen The Old Whig, and was therefore excusable. It 
is true that the words 'little Dicky' occur in The Old Whig, and that 
Steele's name was Richard. It is equally true that the words 'little Isaac ' 
occur in The Duenna, and that Newton's name was Isaac. But we con- 
fidently affirm that Addison's 'little Dicky' had no more to do with Steele 
than Sheridan's ' little Isaac ' with Newton. If we apply the words ' little 
Dicky' to Steele, we deprive a very lively and ingenious passage not only 
of all its wit but of all its meaning. ' Little Dicky ' was evidently the 
nickname of some comic actor who played the usurer Gomez, then a most 
popular part, in Dryden's Spanish Friar." 

Shortly afterwards, in a letter to Mr. Napier, the editor of the Edinburgh 
Review, Macaulay writes as follows : — " I am much pleased with one thing. 
You may remember how confidently I asserted that 'little Dicky,' in the 

1 719] ADDISON. 297 

Every reader surely must regret that these two illustrious 
friends, after so many years past in confidence and endearment, 
in unity of interest, conformity of opinion, and fellowship of 
study, should finally part in acrimonious opposition. Such a 
controversy was Bdlum plusquam civile, as Lucan expresses it. 
Why could not faction find other advocates ? But, among the 
uncertainties of the human state, we are doomed to number 
the instability of friendship. 

Of this dispute I have little knowledge but from the 
Biographia Britannica. The Old Whig is not inserted in 
Addison's works, nor is it mentioned by Tickell in his Life ; 
why it was omitted the biographers doubtless give the true 
reason ; the fact was too recent, and those who had been 
heated in the contention were not yet cool. 

The necessity of complying with times, and of sparing 
persons, is the great impediment of biography. History may 
be formed from permanent monuments and records ; but Lives 
can only be written from personal knowledge, which is growing 
every day less, and in a short time is lost for ever. What is 7 
known can seldom be immediately told ; and when it might \ 
be told, it is no longer known. The delicate features of the 

Old Whig, was the nickname of some comic actor. Several people thought 
that I risked too much in assuming this so strongly on mere internal evi- 
dence. I have now, by an odd accident, found out who the actor was. 
An old prompter of Drury Lane theatre, named Chetwood, published, in 
1749, a small volume containing an account of all the famous performers 
he remembered, arranged in alphabetical order. This little volume I 
picked up yesterday, for sixpence, at a bookstall in Holbom ; and the first 
name on which I opened was that of Henry Norris, a favourite comedian, 
who was nicknamed ' Dicky ' because he first obtained celebrity by acting 
the part of Dicky in the Trip to the Jubilee. It is added that his figure 
was very diminutive. He was, it seems, in the height of his popularity at 
the very time when the Old Whig was vnritten. You will, I think, agree 
with me that this is decisive. I am a little vam of my sagacity, which I 
really think would have dubbed me a vir darissimus, if it had been shewn 
on a point of Greek or Latin learning ; but I am still more pleased that 
the vindication of Addison firom an unjust charge, which has been uni- 
versally believed since the publication of the Lives of tlie Poets, should 
thus be complete. Should you have any objection to inserting a short note 
at the end of the next Number?" (Note by the Editor.) 

IsgS ADDISON. [1672— 

mind, the nice discriminations of character, and the minute 
peculiarities of conduct, are soon obliterated ; and it is 
surely better that caprice, obstinacy, frolick, and folly, 
however they might delight in the description, should be 
silently forgotten, than that, by wanton merriment and 
unseasonable detection, a pang should be given to a widow, a 
daughter, a brother, or a friend. As the process of these 
narratives is now bringing me among my contemporaries, I 
begin to feel myself walking upon ashes under which the fire is 
not extinguished, and coming to the time of which it will be 
proper rather to say nothing that is false, than all that is true. 

The end of this useful life was now approaching. — Addison 
had for some time been oppressed by shortness of breath, 
which was now aggravated by a dropsy ; and, finding his danger 
pressing, he prepared to die conformably to his own precepts 
and professions. 

During this lingering decay, he sent, as Pope relates,? a 
message by the Earl of Warwick to Mr. Gay, desiring to see 
him : Gay, who had not visited him for some time before, 
obeyed the summons, and found himself received with great 
kindness. The purpose for which the interview had been 
solicited was then discovered ; Addison told him that he had 
injured him ; but that, if he recovered, he would recompense 
him. What the injury was he did not explain, nor did Gay 
ever know ; but supposed that some preferment designed for 
him, had, by Addison's intervention, been withheld. 

Lord Warwick was a young man of very irregular life, and 
perhaps of loose opinions. Addison, for whom he did not 
want respect, had very diligently endeavoured to reclaim him ; 
but his arguments and expostulations had no effect. One 
experiment, however, remained to be tried : when he found his 
life near its end, he directed the young Lord to be called ; and 
when he desired, with great tenderness, to hear his last injunc- 
tions, told him, / have sent for you that you may see how a 
' Spence. 

1719] ADDISON. 299 

Christian can die. What effect this awful scene had on the 
Earl I know not ; he likewise died himself in a short time. 
In Tickell's excellent Elegy on his friend are these lines : 

He taught us how to live ; and, oh ! too high 
The price of knowledge, taught us how to die. 

In which he alludes, as he told Dr. Young, to this moving 

Having given directions to Mr. Tickell for the publication of 
his works, and dedicated them on his death-bed to his friend 
Mr. Craggs, he died June 17, 17 19, at Holland-house, leaving 
no child but a daughter. 

Of his virtue it is a sufficient testimony, that the resentment 
of party has transmitted no charge of any crime. He was not 
one of those who are praised only after death ; for his merit 
was so generally acknowledged, that Swift, having observed 
that his election passed without a contest, adds, that if he 
had proposed"himself for king, he would hardly have been 

His zeal for his party did not extinguish his kindness for the 
merit of his opponents : when he was secretary in Ireland, he 
refused to intermit his acquaintance with Swift. 

Of his habits, or external manners, nothing is so often 
mentioned as that timorous or sullen taciturnity, which his 
friends called modesty by too mild a name. Steele mentions 
with great tenderness " that remarkable bashfulness, which is a 
cloak that hides and muffles merit;" and tells us, that "his 
abilities were covered only by modesty, which doubles the 
beauties which are seen, and gives credit and esteem to all 
that are concealed." Chesteriield affirms, that " Addison was 
the most timorous and aukward man that he ever saw." And 
Addison, speaking of his own deficience in conversation, used 
to say of himself, that, with respect to intellectual wealth, " he 
could draw bills for a thousand pounds, though he had not a 
guinea in his pocket." 


300 ADDISON. [1672— 

That he wanted current coin 'for ready payment, and by 
that want was often obstructed and distressed; that he was 
oppressed by an improper and ungraceful timidity, every 
testimony concurs to prove ; but Chesterfield's representation 
is doubtless hyperbolical. That man cannot be supposed very 
unexpert in the arts of conversation and practice of life, who, 
without fortune or alliance, by his usefulness and dexterity 
became secretary of state ; and who died at forty-seven, after 
having not only stood long in the highest rank of wit and 
literature, but filled one of the most important offices of state. 

The time in which he lived had reason to lament his 
obstinacy of silence ; " for he was," says Steele, " above all men 
in that talent called humour, and enjoyed it in such perfection, 
that I have often reflected, after a night spent with him apart 
from all the world, that I had had the pleasure of conversing 
with an intimate acquaintance of Terence and Catullus, who 
had all their wit and nature, heightened with humour more 
exquisite and delightful than any other man ever possessed." 
This is the fondness of a friend ; let us hear what is told us by 
a rival. "Addison's conversation,"' says Pope, "had some- 
thing in it more charming than I have found in any other man. 
But this was only when familiar : before strangers or perhaps a 
single stranger, he preserved his dignity by a stiff silence." 

This modesty was by no means inconsistent with a very 
high opinion of his own merit. He demanded to be the first 
name in modern wit ; and, with Steele to echo him, used 
to depreciate Dryden, whom Pope and Congreve defended 
against them.^ There is no reason to doubt that he suffered 
too much pain from the prevalence of Pope's poetical reputa- 
tion ; nor is it without strong reason suspected, that by some 
disingenuous acts he endeavoured to obstruct it ; Pope was 
not the only man whom he insidiously injured, though the only 
man of whom he could be afraid. 

His own powers were such as might have satisfied him with 
^ Spence. ^ Tonson and Spence. 

1 719] ADDISON. 301 

conscious excellence. Of very extensive learning he has 
indeed given no proofs. He seems to have had small ac- 
quaintance with the sciences, and to have read little except 
Latin and French; but of the Latin poets his Dialogues on 
Medals shew that he had perused the works with great 
diligence and skill. The abundance of his own mind left him 
little need of adventitious sentiments ; his wit always could 
suggest what the occasion demanded. He had read with 
critical eyes the important volume of human life, and knew 
the heart of man from the depths of stratagem to the surface 
of affectation. 

What he knew he could easily communicate. " This," says 
Steele, " was particular in this writer, that when he had taken 
his resolution, or made his plan for what he designed to write, 
he would walk about a room, and dictate it into language with 
as much freedom and ease as any one could write it down, and 
attend to the coherence and grammar of what he dictated. 

Pope,i who can be less suspected of favouring his memory, 
declares that he wrote very fluently, but was slow and 
Scrupulous in correcting; that many of his Spectators were 
written very fast, and sent immediately to the press ; and that 
it seemed to be for his advantage not to have time for much 

" He would alter,'' says Pope, " any thing to please his 
friends, before publication ; but would not retouch his pieces 
afterwards : and I believe not one word in Cato, to which I 
made an objection, was suffered to stand. 

The last line of Cato is Pope's, having been originally 

And, oh ! 'twas this that ended Cato's life. 

Pope might have made more objections to the six concluding 
lines. In the first couplet the words from hence are improper ; 

' Spence, 

302 ADDISON. [1672— 

and the second line is taken from Dryden's Virgil. Of the 
next couplet, the first verse being included in the second, is 
therefore useless ; and in the third Discord is made to produce 

Of the course of Addison's familiar day,i before his marriage, 
Pope has given a detail. He had in the house with him 
Budgell, and perhaps Philips. His chief companions were 
Steele, Budgell, Philips, Carey, Davenant, and Colonel Brett. 
With one or other of these he always breakfasted. He studied 
all morning; then dined at a tavern, and went afterwards to 

Button had been a servant in the Countess of Warwick's 
family, who, under the patronage of Addison, kept a coffee- 
house on the south side of Russell-street, about two doors from 
Covent-garden. Here it was that the wits of that time used 
to assemble. It is said, that when Addison had suffered any 
vexation from the countess, he withdrew the company from 
Button's house. 

From the coffee-house he went again to a tavern, where he 
often sat late, and drank too much wine. In the bottle, 
discontent seeks for comfort, cowardice for courage, and bash- 
fulness for confidence. It is not unlikely that Addison was 
first seduced to excess by the manumission which he obtained 
from the servile timidity of his sober hours. He that feels 
oppression from the presence of those to whom he knows 
himself superior, will desire to set loose his powers of conver- 
sation; and who, that ever asked succour from Bacchus, was 
able to preserve himself from being enslaved by his auxiliary ? 
Among those friends it was that Addison displayed the 
elegance of his colloquial accomplishments, which may easily 
be supposed such as Pope represents them. The remark of 
Mg,ndeville, who, when he had passed an evening in his 
company, declared that he was a parson in a tye-wig, can 
detract little from his character ; he was always reserved to 
^ Spence, 

1 719] ADDISON. 303 

strangers, and was not incited to uncommon freedom by a, 
character like that of Mandevilk. 

From any minute knowledge of his familiar manners, the 
intervention of sixty years has now bebarred us. Steele once 
promised Congreve and the publick a complete description of 
his character ; but the promises of authors are like the vows of / 
lovers. Steele thought no more on his design, or thought on 
it with anxiety that at last disgusted him, and left his friend in 
the hands of Tickell. 

One slight lineament of his character Swift has preserved. 
It was his practice when he found any man invincibly wrong, ~ , 
to flatter his opinions by acquiescence, and sink him yet ; 
deeper in absurdity. This artifice of mischief was admired by ' 
Stella ; and Swift seems to approve her admiration. 

His works will supply some information. It appears from 
his various pictures of the world, that, with all his bashfulness, 
he had conversed with many distinct classes of men, had 
surveyed their ways with very diligent observation, and marked 
with great acuteness the effects of different modes of life. He 
was a man in whose presence nothing reprehensible was out of 
danger ; quick in discerning whatever was wrong or ridiculous, 
and not unwilling to expose it. TAere are, says Steele, in his I 
writings many oblique strokes upon some of the wittiest meti of the 
age. His delight was more to excite merriment than detesta- ', 
tion, and he detects follies rather than crimes. 

If any judgemerrt be made, from his books, of his moral 
character, nothing will be found but purity and excellence. 
Knowledge of mankind indeed, less extensive than that of 
Addison, will shew, that to write, and to live, are very different. 
Many who praise virtue, do no more than praise it. Yet it is 
reasonable to believe that Addison's professions and practice 
were at no great variance, since, amidst Ahat storm of faction 
in which most of his life was passed, though his station made 
him conspicuous, and his activity made him formidable, the 
character given him by his friends was never contradicted by 

304 ADDISON. [1672— 

his enemies : of those with whom interest or opinion united 
him, he had not only the esteem, but the kindness ; and of 
others whom the violence of opposition drove against him, 
though he might lose the love, he retained the reverence. 

It is justly observed by Tickell, that he employed wit on the 
side of virtue and religion. He not only made the proper use 
of wit himself, but taught it to others ; and from his time it 
has been generally subservient to the cause of reason and of 
truth. He has dissipated the prejudice that had long connected 
gaiety with vice, and easiness of manners with laxity of prin- 
ciples. He has restored virtue to its dignity, and taught 
innocence not to be ashamed. This is an elevation of literary 
character, above all Greek, above all Roman fame. No greater 
felicity can genius attain than that of having purified intel- 
lectual pleasure, separated mirth from indecency, and wit from 
licentiousness ; of having taught a succession of writers to 
bring elegance and gaiety to the aid of goodness ; and, if I 
may use expressions yet more awful, of having turned many 
to righteousness. 

Addison, in his life, and for some time afterwards, was 
considered by the greater part of readers as supremely 
excelling both in poetry and criticism, tart of his reputation 
may be probably ascribed to the advancement of his fortune : 
when, as Swift observes, he became a statesman, and saw poets 
waiting at his levee, it is no wonder that praise was accumulated 
upon him. Much likewise may be more honourably ascribed 
to his personal character : he who, if he had claimed it, might 
have obtained the diadem, was not likely to be denied the 

But time quickly puts an end to artificial and accidental 
fame ; and Addison is to pass through futurity protected only 
by his genius. Every name which kindness or interest once 
raised too high, is in danger, lest the next age should, by the 
vengeance of criticism, sink it in the same proportion. A 

1719] /J j- ADDISON. 30s 

great_writer has lately styled him an indifferent pet, and a i 
worse critick. 

His poetry is first to be considered ; of which it must be 
confessed that it has not often those felicities of diction which 
give lustre to sentiments, or that vigour of sentiment that 
animates diction : there is little of ardour, vehemence, or 
transport ; there is very rarely the awfulness of grandeur, and 
not verj' often the splendour of elegance. He thinks justly ; 
but he thinks faintly. This is his general character ; to which, 
doubtless, many single passages will furnish exceptions. 

Yet, if he seldom reaches supreme excellence, he rarely 
sinks into dulness, and is still more rarely entangled in absur- 
dity. He did not trust his powers enough to be negligent. 
There is in most of his compositions a calmness and equa- 
bility, deliberate and cautious, sometimes with little that 
delights, but seldom with any thing that offends. 

Of this kind seem to be- his poems to Dryden, to Somers, 
and to the King. His ode on St. Cecilia has been imitated by 
Pope, and has something in it of Dryden's vigour. Of his 
Account of the English Poets, he used to speak as a poor 
thing ; ^ but it is not worse than his usual strain. He has said, 
not very judiciously, in his character of Waller : 

Thy verse could shew ev'n Cromwell's innocence. 
And compliment the storms that bore him hence. 
O ! had thy Muse not come an age too soon, 
But seen great Nassau on the British throne, 
How had his triumph glitter'd in thy page ! — 


What is this but to say that he who could compliment Crom^, 
well had been the proper poet for King WilUam ? Addison 
however never printed the piece. 

The Letter from Italy has been always praised, but has never 
been praised beyond its merit. It is more correct, with less 
appearance of labour, and more elegant, with less ambition of 

'^ Spence. 

3o6 ADDISON. [1672— 

one br( 
taken : 

300 AUDlbUJN. L1072— 

ornament, than any other of his poems. There is however 
one broken metaphor, of which notice may properly be 

Fir'd with that name — 
I bridle in my struggling Muse with pain. 
That longs to launch into a nobler strain. 

To bridle a goddess is no very delicate idea ; but why must she 
be bridled 2 because she longs to launch 7 an act which was 
never hindered by a bridle : and whitlier will she launch 1 into 
a nobler straiti. She is in the first line a horse, in the second a 
boat ; and the care of the poet is to keep his horse or his boat 
from singing. 

The next composition is the far-famed Campaign, which Dr. 
Warton has termed a Gazette in Rhyme, with harshness not 
often used by the good-nature of his criticism. Before a 
censure so severe is admitted, let us consider that War is a 
frequent subject of Poetry, and thenenquire who has described 
it with more justness and force. Many of our own writers 
tried their powers upon this year of victory, yet Addison's is 
confessedly the best performance ; his poem is the work of a 
man not bhnded by the dust of learning : his images are not 
borrowed merely from books. The superiority which he confers 
upon his hero is not personal prowess, and mighty bone, but 
deliberate intrepidity, a, calm command of his passions, and the 
power of consulting his own mind in the midst of danger. 
The rejection and contempt of fiction is rational and manly. 

It may be observed that the last line is imitated by Pope ; 

Marlb'rough's exploits appear divinely bright — 
Rais'd of themselves, their genuine charms they boast. 
And those that paint them truest, praise them most. 

This Pope had in his thoughts ; but, not knowing how to use 
what was not his own, he spoiled the thought when he had 
borrowed it 

1719] ADDISON. 307 

The well-sung woes shall soothe my ghost ; 
He best can paint them who shall feel them most. ^~' 

Martial exploits may be painted ; perhaps woes may ht painted ; ■; 
but they are surely not painted by being well-sung : it is not 
easy to paint in song, or to sing in colours. 

No passage in the Campaign has been more often mentioned 
than the simile of the Angel, which is said in the Tatler to be 
one of the noblest thoughts that ever entered into the heart of 
man, and is therefore worthy of attentive consideration. Let 
it be first enquired whether it be a simile. A poetical simile 
is the discovery of likeness between two actions in their 
general nature dissimilar, or of causes terminating by different 
operations in some resemblance of effect. But the mention of 
another like consequence from a like cause, or of a like per- 
formance by a like agency, is not a simile, but an exemplifica- -\ 
tion. It is not a simile to say that the Thames waters fields, as 
the Po waters fields ; or that as Hecla vomits flames in Iceland, 
so ^tna vomits flames in Sicily. When Horace says of 
Pindar, that he pours his violence and rapidity of verse, as a 
river swoln with rain rushes from the mountain ; or of himself, 
that his genius wanders in quest of poetical decorations, as the 
bee wanders to collect honey; he, in either case, produces a 
simile ; the mind is impressed with the resemblance of things 
generally unlike, as unlike as intellect and body. But if i i, 
Pindar had been described as writing with the copiousness and / vi 
grandeur of Homer, or Horace had'told that he reviewed and ; 
finished his own poetry with the same care as Isocrates polished ,' 
his orations, instead of similitude he would have exhibited ' 
almost identity ; he would have given the same portraits with / 
different names. In the poem now examined, when the 
English are represented as gaining a fortified pass, by repetition- 
of attack and perseverance of resolution ; their obstinacy of 
courage, and vigour of onset, is well illustrated by the sea that • 
breaks, with incessant battery, the dikes of Holland. This is 
a simile : but when Addison, Iiaving celebrated the beauty of 

X 2 

3o8 ADDISON. [1672— 

Mariborough's person, tells us that Achilles thus was formed 
with eiiery grace, here is no simile, but a mere exemplification. 
A simile may be compeared to lines converging at a point, and 
is more excellent as the lines approach from greater distance : 
an exemplification may be considered as two parallel lines 
which run on together without approximation, never far 
separated, and never joined. 

Marlborough is so like the angel in the poem, that the action 
of both is almost the same, and performed by both in the same 
manner. Marlborough teaches the battle to rage; the angel 
directs the storm : Marlborough is unmoved iti peaceful thought ; 
the angel is calm and serene: Marlborough stands unmoved 
amidst the shock of hosts ; the angel rides calm in the whirlwind. 
The lines on Marlborough are just and noble ; but the simile 
gives almost the same images a second time. 

But perhaps this thought, though hardly a simile, was remote 
from vulgar conceptions, and required great labour of research, 
or dexterity of application. Of this, Dr. Madden, a name 
which Ireland ought to honour, once gave me his opinion. 
Jf I had set, said he, ten school-boys to write on the battle of 
Blenheim, and eight had brought me the Angel, ■ I should not 
have been surprised. 

The opera of Rosamond, though it is seldom mentioned,, is 
one of the first of Addison's compositions. The subject is 
well-chosen, the fiction is pleasing, and the praise of Marl- 
borough, for which the scene gives an opportunity, is, what 
perhaps every human excellence must be, the product of 
good-luck improved by genius. The thoughts are sometimes 
great, and sometimes tender ; the versification is easy and gay. 
There is doubtless some advantage in the shortness of the 
lines, which there is little temptation to load with expletive 
epithets. The dialogue seems commonly better than the 
songs. The two comick characters of Sir Trusty and Gride- 
line, though of no great value, are yet such as the poet 
intended. Sir Trusty's account of the death of Rosamond 

1719] ADDISON. 309 

is, I think, too grossly absurd. The whole drama is airy 
and elegant; engaging in its process, and pleasing in its '" ' 
conclusion. If Addison had cultivated the lighter parts of ' 
poetry, he would probably have excelled. 

The tragedy of Cato, which, contrary to the rule observed 
in selecting the works of other poets, has by the weight of its [,. 
character forced its way into the late collection, is unquestionably 
the noblest production of Addison's genius. Of a work so much 
read, it is difficult to say any thing new. About things on which 
the public thinks long, it commonly attains to think right ; and 
of Cato it has been not unjustly determined, that it is rather 
a poem in dialogue than a drama, rather a succession of just 
sentiments in elegant language, than a representation of natural 
affections, or of any state probable or possible in human life. 
Nothing here excites or asswages emotion ; here is no magical 
power of raising phantastick terror or wild anxiety. The 
events are expected without solicitude, and are remembered 
without joy or sorrow. Of the agents we have no care ; we 
consider not what they are doing, or what they are suffering ; 
we wish only to know what they have to say, Cato is a being 
above our solicitude ; a man of whom the gods take care, and 
whom we leave to their care with heedless confidence. To 
the rest, neither gods nor men can have much attention ; for 
there is not one amongst them that strongly attracts either 
affection or esteem. But they are made the vehicles of such 
sentiments and such expression, that there is scarcely a scene 
in the play which the reader does not wish to impress upon 
his memory. 

When Cato was shewn to Pope,' he advised the author to 
print it, without any theatrical exhibition ; supposing that it 
would be read more favourably than heard. Addison declared 
himself of the same opinion ; but urged the importunity of his 
friends for its appearance on the stage. The emulation of 
parties made it successful beyond expectation, and its success 
^ S pence. 

310 ADDISON. [1672— 

!'S'' has introduced or confirmed among us the use of dialogue too 
declamatory, of unaffecting elegance, and chill philosophy. 

The universality of applause, however it might quell the 
censure of common morta:ls, had no other effect than to harden 
Dennis in fixed dislike ; but his dislike was not merely ca- 
pricious. He found and shewed many faults : he shewed them 
indeed with anger, but he found them with acuteness, such as 
ought to rescue his criticism from oblivion; though, at last, 
it will have no other life than it derives from the work which it 
endeavours to oppress. 

Why he pays no regard to the opinion of the audience, he 
gives his reason, by remarking, that 

"A deference is to be paid to a general applause, when it 
appears that that applause is natural and spontaneous ; but 
that little regard is to be had to it, when it is affected and 
artificial. Of all the tragedies which in his memory have had 
vast and violent runs, not one has been excellent, few have 
been tolerable, most have been scandalous. When a poet writes 
a tragedy, who knows he has judgement, and who feels he has 
genius, that poet presumes upon his own merit, and scorns to 
make a cabal. That people come coolly to the representation 
of such a tragedy, without any violent expectation, or delusive 
imagination, or invincible prepossession ; that such an audience 
is liable to receive the impressions which the poem shall natur- 
ally make in them, and to judge by their own reason, and their 
own judgements, and that reason and judgement are calm and 
serene, not formed by nature to make proselytes, and to con- 
troul and lord it over the imaginations of others. But that 
when an author writes a tragedy, who knows he has neither 
genius nor judgement, he has recourse to the making a party, 
and he endeavours to make up in industry what is wanting in 
talent, and to supply by poetical craft the absence of poetical 
art : that such an author is humbly contented to raise men's 
passions by a plot without doors, since he despairs of doing 
it by that which he brings upon the stage. TJiat party, and 

1719] ADDISON. 311 

passion, and preposession, are clamorous and tumultuous 
things, and so much the more clamorous and tumultuous by 
how much the more erroneous : that they domineer and tyran- 
nize over the imaginations of persons who want judgement, 
and sometimes too of those who have it ; and, like a fierce 
and outrageous torrent, bear down all opposition before them." 

He then condemns the neglect of poetical justice; which is 
always one of his favourite principles. 

'"Tis certainly the duty of every tragick poet, by the exact 
distribution of poetical justice, to imitate the Divine Dispensa- 
tion, and to inculcate a particular Providence. 'Tis true, 
indeed, upon the stage of the world, the wicked sometimes 
prosper, and the guiltless suffer. But that is permitted by the 
Governor of the world, to shew, from the attribute of his 
infinite justice, that there is a compensation in futurity, to 
prove the immortality of the human soul, and the certainty of 
future rewards and punishments. But the poetical persons in 
tragedy exist no longer than the reading, or the representation ; 
the whole extent of their entity is circumscribed by those ; and 
therefore, during that reading or representation, according to 
their merits or demerits, they must be punished or rewarded. 
If this is not done, there is no impartial distribution of poeti- 
cal justice, no instructive lecture of a particular Providence, 
and no imitation of the Divine Dispensation. And yet the 
author of this tragedy does not only run counter to this, in the 
fate of his principal character ; but every where, throughout it, 
makes virtue suffer, and vice triumph : for not only Cato is 
vanquished by Csesar, but the treachery and perfidiousness of 
Syphax prevails over the honest simplicity and the credulity of 
Juba; and the sly subtlety and dissimulation of Portius over 
the generous frankness and open-heartedness of Marcus." 

Whatever pleasure there may be in seeing crimes punished 
and virtue rewarded, yet, since wickedness often prospers in 
real life, the poet is certainly at liberty to give it prosperity on 
the stage. For if poetry has an imitation of reality, how are its 

312 ADDISON. [1672— 

laws broken by exhibiting the world in its true form ? The 
stage may sometimes gratify our wishes ; but, if it be truly the 
■mirror of life, it ought to shew us sometimes what we are to 

Dennis objects to the characters that they are not natural, or 
reasonable ; but as heroes and heroines are not beings that are 
seen every day, it is hard to find upon what principles their 
conduct shall be tried. It is, however, not useless to consider 
what he says of the manner in which Cato receives the account 
of his son's death. 

" Nor is the grief of Cato, in the Fourth Act, one jot more in 
nature than that of his son and Lucia in the third. Cato re- 
ceives the news of his son's death not only with dry eyes, but 
with a sort of satisfaction ; and in the same page sheds tears for 
the calamity of his country, and does the same thing in the next 
page upon the bare apprehension of the danger of his friends. 
Now, since the love of one's country is the love of one's country- 
men, as I have shewn upon another occasion, I desire to ask these 
questions : Of all our countrymen, which do we love most, those 
whom we know, or those whom we know not ? And of those 
whom we know, which do we cherish most, our friends or our 
enemies ? And of our friends, which are the dearest to us ? 
those who are related to us, or those who are not ? And of all 
our relations, for which have we most tenderness, for those who 
are near to us, or for those who are remote ? And of our near 
relations, which are the nearest, and consequently the dearest 
to us, our offspring or others? Our offspring, most certainly ; 
as nature, or in other words Providence, has wisely contrived 
or the preservation of mankind. Now, does it not follow, from 
what has been Said, that for a man to receive the news of his 
son's death with dry eyes, and to weep at" the same time for the 
calamities of his country, is a wretched affectation, and a 
miserable inconsistency? Is not that, in plain English, to 
receive with dry eyes the news of the deaths of those for whose 
sake our country is a name so dear to us, and at the same time 

1719] ADDISON. 313 

to shed tears for those for whose sakes our country is not a 
name so dear to us?" 

But this formidable assailant is least resistible when he 
attacks the probability of the action, and the reasonableness of 
the plan. Every critical reader must remark, that Addison has, 
with a scrupulosity almost unexampled on the English stage, 
coniined himself in time to a single day, and in place to 
rigorous unity. The scene never changes and 'the whole 
action of the play passes in the great hall of Cato's house at 
Utica. Much therefore is done in the hall, for which an^ other 
place had been more fit ; and this impropriety affords Dennis 
many hints of merriment, and opportunities of triumph. The 
passage is long ; but as such disquisitions are not common, and 
the objections are skilfully formed and vigorously urged, those 
who delight in critical controversy will not think it tedious. 

" Upon the departure of Fortius, Sempronius makes but one 
soliloquy, and immediately in comes Syphax, and then the 
two politicians are at it immediately. They lay their heads 
together, with their snuff-boxes in their hands, as Mr. Bayes has 
it, and league it away. But, in the midst of that wise scene, 
Syphax seems to give a seasonable caution to Sempronius : 

" Syph. But is it true, Sempronius, that your senate 
Is cali'd together ? Gods ! thou must be cautious, 
Cato has piercing eyes. 

" There is a great deal of caution shewn indeed, in meeting in 
a governor's own hall to carry on their plot against him. 
Whatever opinion they have of his eyes, I suppose they had 
none of his ears, or they would never have talked at this foolish 
rate so near. 

" Gods ! thou must be cautious. 

" Oh ! yes, very cautious : for if Cato should overhear you, 
and turn you off for politicians, Caesar would never take you ; 
no, Caesar would never take you. 

314 ADDISON. [1672— 

"When Cato, Act II. turns the senators out of the hall, 
upon pretence of acquainting Juba with the result of their 
debates, he appears to me to do a thing which is neither 
reasonable nor civil. Juba might certainly have better been 
made acquainted with the result of that debate in some private 
apartment of the palace. But the poet was driven upon this 
absurdity to make way for another ; and that is, to give Juba 
an opportunity to demard Marcia of her father. But the 
quarrel and rage of Juba and Syphax, in the same Act, the 
invectives of Syphax against the Romans and Cato ; the advice 
that he gives Juba, in her father's haU, to bear away Marcia by 
force ; and his brutal and clamorous rage upon his refusal, and 
at a time when Cato was scarce cut of sight, and perhaps not 
out of hearing ; at least, some of his guards or domesticks 
must necessarily be supposed to be within hearing ; is a thing 
that is so far from being probable, that it is hardly possible. 

"Sempronius, in the second Act, comes back once more in 
the same morning to the governor's hall, to carry on the 
conspiracy with Syphax against the governor, his country,' and 
his family ; which is so stupid, that it is below the wisdom of 
the O — 's, the Mac's, and the Teague's ; even Eustace Commins 
himself would never have gone to Justice-hall, to have con- 
spired against the government. If officers at Portsmouth 
should lay their heads together, in order to the carrying off 
J — G — 's niece or daughter, would they meet in J— G — 's 
hall, to carry on that conspiracy ? There would be no necessity 
for their meeting there, at least till they came to the execution 
of their plot, because there would be other places to meet 
in. There would be no probability that they should meet 
there, because there would be places more private and more 
commodious. Now there ought to be nothing in a tragical 
action but what is necessary or probable. 

" But treason is not the only thing that is carried on in this 
hall : that, and love, and philosophy, take their turns in it, 
without any manner of necessity or probability occasioned by 

1719] ADDISON. 315 

the action, as duly and as regularly, without interrupting one 
another, as if there were a triple league between them, and a 
mutual agreement that each should give plg.ce to and make 
way for the other, in a due and orderly succession. 

" We come now to the Third Act. Sempronius, in this Act, 
comes into the governor's hall, with the leaders of the mutiny : 
but as soon as Cato is gone, Sempronius, who but just before 
had acted like an unparalleled knave, discovers himself, like 
an egregious fool, to be an accomplice in the conspiracy. 

" Semp. Know, villains, when such paltry slaves presume 
To mix in treason, if the plot succeeds, 
They're thrown neglected by ; but if it fails, 
They're sure to die like dogs, as you shall do. 
Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth 
To sudden death. — 

" 'Tis true, indeed, the second leader says, there are none there 
but friends; but is that possible at such a juncture? Can a 
parcel of rogues attempt to assassinate the governor of a town 
of war, in his own , house, in mid-day, and after they are 
discovered and defeated, can there be none near them but 
friends ? Is it not plain from these words of Sempronius, 

" Here, take these factious monsters, drag them forth 
To sudden death — 

" and from the entrance of the guards upon the word of 
command, that those guards were within ear-shot? Behold 
Sempronius then palpably discovered. How comes it to pass, 
then, that, instead of being hanged up with the rest, he remains 
secure in the governor's hall, and there carries on his con- 
spiracy against the government, the third time in the same day, 
with his old comrade Syphax ? who enters at the same time that 
the guards are carrying away the leaders, big with the news of the 
defeat of Sempronius ; though where he had his intelligence so 
soon is difficult to imagine. And now the reader may expect 
a very extraordinary scene : there is not abundance of spirit 

3i6 ADDISON. [1672— 

indeed, nor a great deal of passion, but there is wisdom more 
than enough to supply all defects. 

" Syph. Our first design, my friend, has prov'd abortive ; 
Still there remains an after-game to play : 
My troops are mounted, their Numidian steeds 
Snuff up the winds, and long to scour the desart : 
Let but Sempronius lead us in our flight, 
We'll force the gate, where Marcus keeps his guard, 
And hew down all that would oppose our passage ; 
A day will bring us into Caesar's camp. 

" Semp. Confusion ! I have fail'd of half my purpose ; 
Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind. 

" Well ! but though he tells us the half-purpose that he has 
failed of, he does not tell us the half that he has carried. But 
what does he mean by 

' ': " Marcia, the charming Marcia's left behind ? 

" He is now in her own house ; and we have neither seen her 
nor heard of her any where else since the play began. But 
now let us hear Syphax : 

" What hinders then, but that thou find her out. 
And hurry her away by manly force ? 

" But what does old Syphax mean by finding her out? They 
talk as if she were as hard to be found as a hare in a frosty 

" Semp. But how to gain admission ? 

" Oh ! she is found out then, it seems. 

" But how to gain admission ? for access 
Is giv'n to none, but Juba and her brothers. 

" But, raillery apart, why access to Juba ? For he was owned 
and received as a lover neither by the father nor by the 
daughter. Well ! but let that pass. Syphax puts Sempronius 
out of pain immediately; and, being a Numidian, abounding 

1719] ADDISON. 317 

in wiles, supplies him with a stratagem for admission, that, I 
believe, is a non-pareille : 

" Syph. Thou shalt have Juba's dress, and Juba's guards ; 
The doors will open, when Numidia's prince 
Seems to appear before them. 

" Sempronius is, it seems, to pass for Juba in full day at 
Cato's house, where they were both so very well known, by 
having Juba's dress and his guards : as if one ,of the marshals 
of France could pass for the Duke of Bavaria, at noon-day, at 
Versailles, by having his dress and liveries. But how does 
Syphax pretend to help Sempronius to young Juba's dress? 
Does he serve him in a double capacity, as general and master 
of his wardrobe ? But why Juba's guards ? for the devil of 
any guards has Juba appeared with yet. Well ! though this is 
a mighty politick invention, yet, methinks, they might have 
done without it : for, since the advice that Syphax gave to 
Sempronius was, 

" To hurry her away by manly force, 

"in my opinion, the shortest and likeliest way of coming , 
at the lady was by demolishing, instead of putting on an ^'^ 
impertinent disguise to circumvent two or three slaves. But 
Sempronms, it seems, is of another opinion. He extols to the 
skies the invention of old Syphax : 

" Sempr. Heavens ! what a thought was there ! 

"Now I appeal to the reader, if I have not been as good 
as my word. Did I not tell him, that I would lay before him 
a very wise scene ? 

"But now let us lay before the reader that part of the 
scenery of the Fourth Act, which may shew the absurdities 
which the author has run into, through the indiscreet observance 
of the Unity of Place. I do not remember that Aristotle has 
said any thing expressly concerning the Unity of Place. 'Tis '^ 

318 ,-,»i-'v'- ] ADDISON. [1672 

true, implicitly he has said enough in the rules which he has 
laid down for the Chorus. For, by making the Chorus an 
essential part of Tragedy, and by bringing it on the stage 
immediately after the opening of the scene, and retaining it 
there till the very catastrophe, he has so determined and] fixed 
the place of action, that it was impossible for an author on the 
Grecian stage to break through that unity. I am of opinion, 
that if a modern tragic poet can preserve the unity of place, 
without destroying the probability of the incidents, 'tis always 
best for him to do it ; because, by the preservation of that 
unity, as we have taken notice above, he adds grace, and 
cleanness, and comeliness, to the representation. But since 
there are no express rules about it, and we are under no 
compulsion to keep it, since we have no Chorus as the 
Grecian poet had j if it cannot be preserved,without render- 
ing the greater part of the incidents unreasonable and absurd, 
and perhaps sometimes monstrous, 'tis certainly better to 
break it. 

" Now comes bully Sempronius, comically accoutred and 
equipped with his Numidian dress and his Numidian guards. 
Let the reader attend to him with all his ears ; for the words 
of the wise are precious : 

" Sempr. The deer is lodg'd, I've track'd her to her covert. 

"Now I would fain know why this deer is said to be lodged, 
since we have not heard one word, since the play began, of 
her being at all out of harbour: and if we consider the 
discourse with which she and Lucia began the Act, we have 
reason to believe that they had hardly been talking of such 
rriatters in the street. However, to pleasure Sempronius, let 
us suppose, for once, that the deer is lodged : 

" The deer is lod^d, I've track'd her to her covert. 

" If he had seen her in the open field, what occasion had he 
to track her, when he had so many Numidian dogs at his heels, 

1719] ADDISON. 319 

which, with one halloo, he might have set upon her haunches ? 
If he did not see her in the open field, how could he possibly 
track her ? If he had seen her in the street, why did he not 
set upon her in the street, since through the street she must 
be carried at last? Now here, instead of having his thoughts 
upon his business, and upon the present danger ; instead of 
meditating and contriving how he shall pass with his mistress 
through the southern gate, where her brother Marcus is upon 
the guard, and where she would certainly prove an impedi- 
ment to him, which is the Roman word for the baggage; 
instead of doing this, Sempronius is entertaining himself 
with whimsies : 

" Sempr. How will the young Numidian rave to see 
His mistress lost ! If aught could glad my soul. 
Beyond th' enjoyment of so bright a prize, 
'Twould be to torture that young gay Barbarian. 
But hark ! what noise ? Death to my hopes, 'tis he, 
'Tis Juba's self ! There is but one way left ! 
He must be murder'd, and a passage cut 
Through those his guards. 

"Pray, what are those his guards t I thought at present, 
that Juba's guards had been Sempronius's tools, and had been 
danghng after his heels. 

"But now let us sum up all these absurdities together. 
Sempronius goes at noonday, in Juba's clothes, and with 
Juba's guards, to Cato's palace, in order to pass for Juba, 
in a place were they where both so very well known : he meets 
Juba there, and resolves to murder him with his own guards. 
Upon the guards appearing a little bashful, he threatens them : 

" Hah ! Dastards, do you tremble ! 
Or act like men, or by yon azure heav'n ! 

" But the guards still remaining restive, Sempronius himself 
attacks Juba, while each of the guards is representing 
Mr. Spectator's sign of the Gaper, awed, it seems, and 
terrified by Sempronius's threats. Juba kills Sempronius, 

320 ADDISON. [1672— 

and takes his own army prisoners, and carries them in 
triumph away to Cato. Now I would fain know, if any 
part of Mr. Bayes's tragedy is so full of absurdity as this? 

"Upon hearing the clash of swords, Lucia and Marcia 
come in. The question is, why no men come in upon hearing 
the noise of swords in the governor's hall? Where was the 
governor himself? Where were his guards ? Where were his 
servants ? Such an attempt as this, so near the person of a 
governor of a place of war, was enough to alarm the whole 
garrison : and yet, for almost half an hour after Sempronius 
was killed, we find none of those appear who. were the likeliest 
in the world to be alarmed ; and the noise of swords is made 
to draw only two poor women thither, who were most certain 
to run away from it. Upon Lucia and Marcia's coming in, 
Lucia appears in all the symptoms of an hystetial gentle- 

" Luc. Sure 'twas the clash of swords ! my troubled heart 
Is so cast down, and sunk amidst its sorrows, 
It throbs with fear, and akes at every sound ! 

" And immediately her old whimsy returns upon her : 

" O Marcia, should thy brothers, for my sake — 
I die away with horror at the thought. 

"She fancies that there can be no cutting of throats but it 
must be for her. If this is tragical, I would fain know what is 
comical. Well ! upon this they spy the body of Sempronius ; 
and Marcia, deluded by the habit, it seems, takes him for 
Juba; for, says she, 

" The face is muffled up within the garment. 

/ " Now how a man could fight, and fall with his face muffled 
N up in his garment, is, I think, a little hard to conceive 1 
Besides, Juba, before he killed him, knew him to be Sempro- 
nius. It was not by his garment that he knew this ; it was by 

1719] • ADDISON. 321 

his face then : his face therefore was not muffled. Upon seeing 
this man with the muffled face, Marcia falls a-raving; and, 
owning her passion for the supposed defunct, begins to make 
his funeral oration. Upon which Juha enters listening, I 
suppose on tip-toe : for I cannot imagine how any one can 
enter listening, in any other posture. I would fain know how 
it came to pass, that during all this time he had sent nobody, no 
not so much as a candle- snuffer, to take away the dead body 
of Sempronius. Well ! but let us regard him listening. 
Having left his apprehension behind him, he, at first, applies 
what Marcia says to Sempronius. But finding at last, with 
much ado, that he himself is the happy man, he quits his 
eves-dropping, and discovers himself just time enough to 
prevent his being cuckoled by a dead man, of whom the 
moment before he had appeared so jealous ; and greedily 
intercepts the bliss, which was fondly designed for one who 
could not be the better for it. But here I must ask a question : 
how comes Juba to listen here, who had not listened before 
throughout the play? Or, how comes he to be the only per- 
son of this tragedy who listens, when love and treason were 
so often talked in so publick a place as a hall ? I am afraid 
the author was driven upon all these absurdities only to 
introduce this miserable mistake of Marcia ; which, after all, 
is much below the dignity of tragedy, as any thing is which 
is the effect or result of trick. 

"But let us come to the scenery of the Fifth Act. Cato 
appears first upon the scene, sitting in a thoughtful posture ; 
in his hand Plato's treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, 
a drawn sword on the table by him. Now let us consider 
the place in which this sight is presented to us. The place, 
forsooth, is a long hall. Let us suppose, that any one should 
place himself in this posture, in the midst of one of our halls 
in London ; that he should appear so/us, in a sullen posture, 
a drawn sword on the table by him ; in his hand Plato's 
treatise on the Immortahty of the Soul, translated lately by 

322 ADDISON. [1672— 

Bernard Lintot : I desire the reader to consider, whether such 
a person as this would pass with them who beheld him for a 
great patriot, a great philosopher, or a general, or for some 
whimsical person who fancied himself all these ; and whether 
the people, who belonged to the family, would think that 
such a person had a design upon their midrifs or his own ? 

"In short, that Cato should sit long enough, in the aforesaid 
posture, in' the midst of this large hall, to read over Plato's 
treatise on the Immortality of the Soul, which is a lecture of 
two long hours ; that he should propose to himself to be private 
there upon that occasion ; that he should be angry with his son 
for intruding there ; then, that he should leave this hall upon 
the pretence of sleep, give himself the mortal wound in his 
bedchamber, and then be brought back into that hall to expire, 
purely to shew his good-breeding, and save his friends the 
trouble of coming up to his bedchamber ; all this appears 
to me to be improbable, incredible, impossible." 
■ Such is the censure of Dennis. There is, as Dryden expresses 
it, perhaps too much horse play in his raillery ; but if his jests'are 
coarse, his arguments are strong. Yet as we love better to be 
pleased than tobe taught, Catois read,and the critick is neglected. 

Flushed with consciousness of these detections of absurdity in 
the conduct, he afterwards attacked the sentiments of Cato ; but 
he then amused himself with petty cavils, and minute objections. 

Of Addison's smaller poems, no particular iriention is neces- 
sary ; they have little that can employ or require a critick. 
The parallel of the Princes and Gods, in his verses to Kneller, 
is often happy, but is too well known to be quoted, 
f His translations, so far as I have compared them, want the 
\ exactness of a scholar. That he understood his authors cannot 
be doubted ; but his versions will not teach others to under- 
stand them, being too licentiously paraphrastical. They are, 
however, for the most part, smooth and easy ; and, what is 
the first excellence of a translator, such as may be read with 
pleasure by those who do not know the originals. 

1719] ADDISON. 323 

His poetry is polished and pure ; the product of a mind too 
judicious to commit faults, but not sufficiently vigorous to attain 
excellence. He has sometimes a striking line, or a shining 
paragraph ; but in the whole he is warm rather than fervid, 
and shews more dexterity than strength. He was however 
one orour earliest examples of correctness. 

The versification which he had learned from Dryden, he 
debased rather than refined. His rhymes are often dissonant ; 
in his Georgick he admits broken lines. He uses both triplets 
and alexandrines, but triplets more frequently in his translations 
than his other works. The mere structure of verses seems 
never to have engaged much of his care. But his lines are 
very smooth in Rosamond, and too smooth in Cato. 

Addison is now to be considered as a critick ; a name which 
the present generation is scarcely willing to allow him. His 
criticism is condemned as tentative or experimental, rather 
than scientifick, and he is considered as deciding by taste 
rather than by principles. 

It is not uncommon for those who have grown wise by the 
labour of others, to add a little of their own, and overlook their 
masters. Addison is now despised by some who perhaps 
would never have seen his defects, but by the lights which 
he afforded them. That he always wrote as he would think it 
necessary to write now, cannot be affirmed ; his instructions 
were such as the character of his readers made proper. That 
general knowledge which now circulates in common talk, was 
in his time rarely to be found. Men not professing learning 
were not ashamed of ignorance ; and in the female world, any 
acquaintance with books was distinguished only to be censured. 
His purpose was to infuse literary curiosity, by gentle and un- 
suspected conveyance, into the gay, the idle, and the wealthy ; 
he therefore presented knowledge in the most alluring form, 
not lofty and austere, but accessible and familiar. When he 
shewed them their defects, he shewed them likewise that they 
might be easily supplied. His attempt succeeded; enquiry 

Y 2 

324 ADDISON. [1672— 

was awakened, and comprehension expanded. An emulation 
of intellectual elegance was excited, and from his time to our 
own, life has been gradually exalted, and conversation purified 
and enlarged. 

Dryden had, not many years before, scattered criticism over 
his Prefaces with very little parsimony ; but though he some- 
times condescended to be somewhat familiar, his manner was 
in general too scholastick for those who had yet their rudi- 
ments to learn, and found it not easy to understand their 
master. His observations were framed rather for those 
that were learning to write, than for those that read only 
to talk. 
'^ An instructor like Addison was now wanting, whose remarks 
being superficial, might be easily understood, and beingjust, 
might prepare the mind for more attainments. Had he pre- 
sented Paradise Lost to the publick with all the pomp of 
system and severity of science, the criticism would perhaps have 
been admired, and the poem still have been neglected ; but 
by the blandishments of gentleness and facility, he has made 
Milton an universal favourite, with whom readers of every class 
think it necessary to be pleased. 

He descended now and then to lower disquisitions ; and by 
a serious display of the beauties of Chevy Chase, exposed 
himself to the ridicule of Wagstaff, who bestowed a like 
pompous character on Tom Thumb ; and to the contempt 
of Dennis, who, considering the fundamental position of 
his criticism, that Chevy Chase pleases, and ought to please, 
because it is natural, observes, " that there is a way of deviat- 
ing from nature, by bombast or tumour, which soars above 
nature, and enlarges images beyond their real bulk ; by 
affectation, which forsakes nature in quest of something 
unsuitable ; and by imbecilit}', which degrades nature by 
faintness and diminution, by obscuring its appearances, and 
weakening its effects." In Chevy Chase there is not much 
of either bombast or affectation ; but there is chill and 

1 719] ADDISON. 325 

lifeless imbecility. The story cannot possibly be told in 
a manner that shall make less impression on the mind. 

Before the profound observers of the present race repose 
too securely on the consciousness of their superiority to 
Addison, let them consider his Remarks on Ovid, in which 
may be found specimens of criticism sufficiently subtle and 
refined ; let them peruse likewise his Essays on Wit, and 
on the Pleasures of Imagination, in which he founds art 
on the base of nature, and draws the principles of invention 
from dispositions inherent in the mind of man, with skill and 
elegance, such as his contemners will not easily attain. 

As a describer of life and manners, he must be allowed to 
stand perhaps the first of the first rank. His humour, which, 
as Steele observes, is peculiar to himself, is so happily diffused 
as to give the grace of novelty to domestick scenes and daily 
occurrences. He never outsteps the modesty of nature, nor 
raises merriment or wonder by the violation of truth. His 
figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. 
He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can be hardly said 
to invent ; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, 
that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of 

As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. 
His religion has nothing in it enthusiastick or superstitious : 
he appears neither weakly credulous nor wantonly sceptical ; 
his morality is neither dangerously lax, nor impracticably rigid. 
All the enchantment of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, 
are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest, the 
care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shewn 
sometimes as the phantom of a vision, sometimes appears 
half- veiled in an allegory; sometimes attracts regard in the 
robes of fancy, and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of 
reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing. 

Mille habet ornatus, mille decenter habet. 

326 ADDISON. [1672— 1719 

His prose is the model of ■ the middle style ; on grave 
subjects not formal, on light occasions not groveling; pure 
without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration ; 
always equable, and always easy, without glowing words 
or pointed sentences. Addison never deviates from his track 
to snatch a grace ; he seeks no ambitious ornaments, and 
tries no hazardous innovations. His page is always luminous, 
but never blazes in unexpected splendour. 

It was apparently his principal endeavour to avoid all 
harshness and severity of diction ; he is therefore sometimes 
verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes 
descends too much to the language of conversation ; yet if 
his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost 
somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted, 
he performed ; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to 
be energetick ; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates; 
His sentences have neither studied amplitude, nor affected 
brevity : his periods, though not diligently rounded, are 
voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style,- 
familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must 
give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison. 


1688 — 1744. 

Alexander Pope was born in London, May 22, 1688, of 
parents whose rank or station was never ascertained; we 
are informed that they were of gentle blood; that his father 
was of a family of which the Earl of Downe was the head, 
and that his mother was the , daughter of William Turner, 
Esquire, of York, who had likewise three sons, one of whom 
had the honour of being killed,' and the other of dying, in 
the service of Chai-Ies the First ; the third was made a general 
officer in Spain, from whom the sister inherited what seques- 
trations and forfeitures had left in the family. 

This, and this only, is told by Pope ; who is more willing, 
as I have heard observed, to shew what his father was not, 
than what he was. It is allowed that he grew rich by trade ; 
but whether in a shop or on the Exchange was never dis- -^■ 
covered, till Mr. Tyers told, on the authority of Mrs. Racket, 
that he was a hnen-draper in the Strand. Both parents were 

Pope was from his birth of a constitution tender and 
delicate ; but is said to have shewn remarkable gentleness 
and sweetness of disposition. The weakness of his body 
continued through his life, but the mildness of his mind 

32S l-OPE. [1688— 

perhaps ended with his childhood. His voice, when he was 
young, was so pleasing, that he was called in fondness the 
little Nightingale. 

Being npt sent early to school, he was taught to read by 
an aunt ; and when he was seven or eight years old, became 
a lover of books. He first learned to write by imitating 
printed books ; a species of penmanship in which he retained 
great excellence through his whole life, though his ordinary 
hand was not elegant .l{£'~ ■'' ''" V ^;'/._^ v^ ci/\^\. 

When he was about eight, he. was placect iri Hampshire 
under Taverner, a Romish priest, who, by a method very 
rarely practised, taught /him the Greek and Latin rudiments 
together. He was now first regularly initiated in poetry by 
the perusal of Ogylby''s Homer, and San^ys's Ovid : Ogylby's 
assistance he never repaid with any praise ; but of Sandys 
he declared, in his notes to the Iliad, that English poetry owed 
much of its present beauty to his translations. Sandys very 
rarely attempted original composition. 

From the care of Taverner, under whom his proficiency was 
considerable, he was removed tO' a school at Twyford near 
Winchester, and again to another school about Hyde-park 
Corner; from which he used sometimes to stroll to the 
playhouse, and was so delighted with theatrical exhibitions, 
that he formed a kind of play from Ogylby's Iliad, with some 
verses of his own intermixed, which he persuaded his school- 
follows to act, with the addition of his master's gardener, who 
personated Ajax. 

At the two last schools he used to represent himself as 
having lost part of wl-tat Tavenier had taught him, and on 
his master at Twyford he had already exercised his poetry 
in a lampoon. Yet under those masters he translated more 
than a fourth part of the Metamorphoses. If he kept the 
' same proportion in his other exercises, it cannot be thought 
that his loss was great. 

He tells of himself, in his poems, that ke lisfd in numbers ; 

1744] POPE. 329 

and used to say that he could not remember the time when 
he began, to make verses. In the style of fiction it might 
have been said of him as of Pindar, that when he lay in 
his cradle, the bees swarmed about his mouth. 

About the time of the Revolution his father, who was 
undoubtedly disappointed by the sudden blagt, of popish 
prosperity, quitted his trade, and retired to Binfield in 
Windsor Forest, with about twenty thousand pounds ; for 
which, being conscientiously determined not to entrust it to 
the government, he found no better use than that of locking 
it up in a chest, and taking from it what his expences re- 
quired ; and his life was long enough to consume a great 
part of it, before his son came to the inheritance. 

To Binfield Pope was called by his father when he was 
about twelve years old ; and there he had for a few months 
the assistance of one Deane, another priest, of whom he 
learned only to construe a little of Tully's Offices. How 
Mr. Deane could spend, with a boy who had translated so 
much of Ovid, some months over a small part of Tully's 
Offices,, it is now vain to enquire. 

Of a youth so successfully employed, and so conspicuously 
improved, a minute account must be naturally desired; but 
curiosity must be contented with confused, imperfect, and 
sometimes improbable intelligence. Pope, finding little ad- 
vantage from external help, resolved thenceforward to direct 
himself, and at twelve formed a plan of study which he 
completed with little other incitement than the desire of 

His primary and principal purpose was to be a poet, with 
which his father accidentally concurred, by proposing subjects, 
and obliging him to correct his performances by many revisals ; 
after which the old gentleman, when he was satisfied, would 
say, these are good rhymes. 

In his perusal of the EngKsh poets he soon distinguished 
the versification of Dryden, which he considered as the model 

333 POPE. [i6gS — 

to be studied, and was impressed with such veneration for his 
instructer, that he persuaded some friends to take him to the 
coffee-house which Dryden frequented, and pleased himself 
with having seen him. 

Dryden died May 1,(1701!, some days before Pope was 
twelve ; so early must life~fIierefore have felt the power of 
harmony, and the zeal of genius. Who does not wish that 
Dryden could have known the value of the homage that was 
paid him, and foreseen the greatness of his young admirer? 

The earliest of Pope's productions is his Ode on Solitude, 
written before he was twelve, in which there is nothing more 
than other forward boys have attained, and which is not equal 
to Cowley's performances at the same age. 

His time was now spent wholly in reading and writing. 
As he read the Classicks, he amused himself with translating 
them ; and at fourteen made a version of the first book of 
the Thebais, which, with some revision, he afterwards published. 
. ,He must have been at this time, if he, had no help, a consider- 
able proficient in the Latin tongue. 

By Dryden's Fables, which had then been not long published, 
and were much in the hands of poetical readers, he was 
tempted to try his own skill in giving Chaucer a more 
fashionable appearance, and put January and May, and the 
Prologue of the Wife of Bath, into modern, English. He 
translated likevvise the Epistle of Sappho to Phaon from Ovid, 
to complete the version, which was before imperfect ; and 
wrote some other small pieces, which he afterwards printed. 

He sometimes imitated the English poets, and professed 
to have written at fourteen his poem upon Silence, after 
Rochester's Nothing. He had now formed his versification, 
and in the smoothness of his numbers surpassed his original : 
but this is a small part of his praise ; he discovers such 
acquaintance both with human life and public affairs, as is 
not easily conceived to have been attainable by a boy of 
fourteen in Windsor Forest. 

1744] POPE. 331 

Next year he "was desirous of opening to himself new 
sources of knowledge, by making himself acquainted with 
modern languages ; and removed for a time to London, that 
he might study French and Italian, which, as he desired 
nothing more than to read them, were by diligent application 
soon dispatched. Of Italian learning he does not appear to 
have ever made much use in his subsequent studies. 

He then returned to Binfield, and delighted himself with 
his own poetry. He tried all styles, and many subjects. He 
wrote a comedy, a tragedy, an epick poem, with panegyricks, 
on all the princes of Europe ; and, as he confesses, thought 
himself the greatest genius that ever was. Self-confidence is 
the first requisite to great undertakings ; he, indeed, who 
forms his opinion of himself in solitude, without knowing 
the powers of other men, is very liable to errour ; but it was 
the felicity of Pope to rate himself at his real value. 

Most of his puerile proHuctions were, by his maturer judge*: 
ment, afterwards destroyed ; Alcander, the epick poem, was 
burnt by the persuasion of Atterbury. The tragedy was 
founded on the legend of St. Genevieve. Of the comedy 
there is no account. 

Concerning his studies it is related, that he translated Tully 
on Old Age ; and that, besides his books of poetry and criticism, 
he read Temple's Essays and Locke on Human Understanding. 
His reading, though his favourite authors are not known, 
appears to have been sufBciently extensive and multifarious ; 
for his early pieces shew, with sufficient evidence, his know- 
ledge of books. 

He that is pleased with himself, easily imagines that he shall 
please others. Sir William Trumbal, who had been ambassa- 
dor at Constantinople, and secretary of state, when he retired 
from business, fixed his residence in the neighbourhood of 
Binfield. Pope, not yet sixteen, was introduced to the states- 
man of sixty, and so distinguished himself, that their interviews 
ended in friendship and correspondence. Pope was, through 

332 POPE. [i6S8— 

his whole life, ambitious of splendid acquaintance, and he 
seems to have wanted neither diligence nor success in attracting 
the notice of the great ; for from his first entrance into the 
world, and his entrance was very early, he was admitted to 
familiarity with those whose rank or station made them most 

From the age of sixteen the life of Pope, as an author, may 
be properly computed. He now wrote his Pastorals, which 
were shewn to the Poets and Criticks of that time ; as they 
well deserved, they were read with admiration, and many 
praises were bestowed upon them and upon the Preface, which 
is both elegant and learned in a high degree : they were, how- 
ever, not published till five years afterwards. 
j- .,^, Cowley, Milton, and Pope, are distinguished among the 
If'' Enghsh Poets by the early exertion of their powers: but the 
1 1 works of Cowley alone were published in his childhood, and 
^J '',-■;' therefore of him only can it be certain that his puerile per- 
c'-^ formances received no improvement from his maturer studies. 

At this time began his acquaintance with Wycherley, a man 
who seems to have had among his contemporaries his full share 
of reputation, to have been esteemed without virtue, and 
^ caressed without good-humour. Pope was proud of his notice; 
Wycherley wrote verses in his praise, which he was charged by 
Dennis with writing to himself, and they agreed for a while to 
flatter one another. It is pleasant to remark how soon Pope 
learned the cant of an author, and began to treat criticks 
with contempt, though he had yet suffered nothing from 

But the fondness of Wycherley was too violent to last. Ilis 
esteem of Pope was such, that he submitted some poems to his 
revision ; and when Pope, perhaps proud of such confidence, 
was sufficiently bold in his criticisms, and liberal in his alter- 
ations, the old scribbler was angry to see his pages defaced, 
and felt more pain from the detection than content from the 
amendment of his faults. They parted; but Pope always 

1744] POPE. 333 

considered him with kindness, and visited him a little tinse 
before he died. 

Another of his early correspondents was Mr. Cromwell, of 
whorn I have learned nothing particular but that he used to 
ride a-hunting in a t^e-wig. He was fond, and perhaps vain, 
of amusing himself with poetry and criticism ; and sometimes ' 
sent his performances to Pope, who did not forbear such 
remarks as were now-and-then unwelcome. Pope, in his turn, 
put the juvenile version of Statius into his hands for correction. 

Their correspondence afforded the publick its first know- 
ledge of Pope's Epistolary Powers ; for his Letters were given 
by Cromwell to one Mrs. Thomas, and she many years after- 
wards sold them to Curll, who inserted them in a volume of 
his. Miscellanies. 

Walsh, a name yet preserved among the minor poets, was 
one of his first encouragers. His regard was gained by the 
Pastorals, and from him Pope received the counsel by which 
he seeras to have regulated his studies. Walsh advised him to 
correctness, which, as he told him, the English poets had 
hitherto neglected, and which therefore was left to him as a 
basis of fame ; and, being delighted with rural poems, recom- 
mended to him to write a pastoral comedy, like those which 
are read so eagerly in Italy; a design which Pope probably 
did not approve, as he did not follow it. 

Pope had now declared himself a poet ; and thinking himself 
entitled to poetical conversation, began at seventeen to fre- 
quent Will's, a co ffee- house on the north side of Russell-street 
in Covent-garden, where the wits of that time used to assemble, 
and where Dryden had, when he lived, been accustomed to 

During this period of his life he was indefatigably diligent, 
and insatiably curious ; wanting health for violent, and money 
for expensive pleasures, and having certainly excited in himself 
very strong desires of intellectual eminence, he spent much of 
his time over his books ; but he read only to store his min'' 

334 POPE. [1688— 

with facts and images, seizing all that his authors presented 
with undistinguishing voracity, and with an appetite for know- 
ledge too eager to be nice. In a mind like his, however, 
all the faculties were at once involuntarily improving. Judge- 
ment is forced upon us by experience. He that reads many 
books must compare one opinion or one style with another ; 
and when he compares, must necessarily distinguish, reject, 
and prefer. But the account given by himself of his studies 
was, that from fourteen to twenty he read only for amusement, 
from twenty to twenty-seven for improvement and instruction ; 
that in the first part of this time he desired only to know, and 
in the second he endeavoured to judge. 

The Pastorals, which had been for some time handed about 
'TO'i among poets and criticks, were at last printed (1709) in 
Tons on's Miscellany, in a volume which began with the 
,1 '" ■■ Pastorals of Philips, and ended with those of Pope. 

The same year was written the Essay on Criticism ; a work 
which displays such extent of comprehension, such nicety 
of distinction, such acquaintance with mankind, and such 
^ . knowledge both of ancient and modern learning, as are not 
~©ften attained by the maturest age and longest experience. 
It was published abouLtwo years afterwards, and being praised 
5 j by Addison in the Spectator with sufficient liberality, met with 
■^\i\ so much favour as enraged Dennis, "who," he says, "found 
' himself attacked, without any manner of provocation on his 

side, and attacked in his person, instead of his writings, by one 
who was wholly a stranger to him, at a time when all the world 
knew he was persecuted by fortune ; and not only saw that this 
was attempted in a clandestine manner, with the utmost false- 
hood and calumny, but found that all this was done by a little 
affected hypocrite, who had nothing in his mouth at the same 
time but truth, candour, friendship, good-nature, humanity, and 

How the attack was clandestine is not easily perceived, nor 
how his person is depreciated ; but he seems to have known 

, 1744] POPE. '- 335 

something of Pope's character, in whom may be discovered 
an appetite to talk too frequently of his own virtues. 

The pamphlet is such as rage might be expected to dictate. 
He supposes himself to be asked two questions ; whether the 
Essay will succeed, and who or what is the author. 

Its success he admits to be secured by the false opinions 
then prevalent ; the author he concludes to be young and 

" First, because he discovers a sufficiency beyond his littie 
ability, and hath rashly undertaken a task infinitely above his 
force. Secondly, while this Httle author struts, and affects, the 
dictatorian air, he plainly shews that at the same time he is 
under the rod ; and while he pretends to give law to others, is 
a pedantick slave- to authority and opinion. Thirdly, he 
hath, like school-boys, borrowed both from living and dead. 
Fourthly, he knows not his own mind, and frequently con- 
tradicts himself. Fifthly, he is almost perpetually in the 

All these positions he attempts to prove by quotations and 
remarks ; but his desire to do mischief is greater than his 
power. He has, however, justly criticised some passages, 
in these lines. 

There are whom Heaven has bless'd with store of wit, 
Yet want asmuch, again to manage it : 
For wit anSjudgement ever are at strife — 

it is apparent that wit has two meanings, and that what is 
wanted, though called wit, is truly judgement. So far Dennis 
is undoubtedly right ; but, not content with argument, he will 
have a little mirth, and triumphs over the first couplet in terms 
too elegant to be forgotten. " By the way, what rare numbers 
are here ! Would not one swear that this youngster had 
espoused some antiquated Muse, who had sued out a divorce 
on account of impotence from some superannuated sinner; 
and, having been p — xed by her former spouse, has got 
the gout in her decrepit age, which makes her hobble so 

336 POPE [i6S8— 

damnably." This was the man who would reform a nation 
sinking into barbarity. 

In another place Pope himself allowed that Dennis had 
detected one of those blunders which are called bulls. The 
first edition had this line : 

' What is this wit — 

Where wanted, scom'd ; and envied where acquir'd ? 

"How," says the critick, "can wit be scorn' d y^\itxt it is not? 
Is not this a figure frequently employed in Hibernjan land ? 
The person that wants this wit may indeed be scorned, but 
the scorn shews the honour which the contemner has for wit." 
Of this remark Pope made the proper use, by correcting the 

I have preserved, I think, all that is reasonable in Dennis's 
criticism ; it remains that justice be done to his delicacy. 
" For his acquaintance (says Dennis) he names Mr. Walsh, who 
had by no means the qualification which this author reckons 
absolutely necessary to a critick, it being very certain that he 
was, like this Essayer, a very indifferent poet ; he loved to be 
well dressed ; and I remember a Ktt:le young gentleman whom 
Mr. Walsh used to take into his company, as a double foil tr 
his person and capacity. — Enquire between Sunninghill and 
Oakingham for a young, short, s£uab gentleman, the very bow 
of the God of Love, and tell me whether he be a proper 
author to make personal reflections? — He may extol the 
antients, but he has reason to thank the gods that he was born 
a modern ; for had he been born of Grecian parents, and his 
father consequently had by law had the absolute disposal of 
him, his life had been no longer than that of one of his poems, 
the life of half a day. — Let the person of a gentleman of his 
parts be never so contemptible, his inward man is ten times 
more ridiculous; it being impossible that his outward form, 
though it be that of downright monkey, should differ so much 
from human shape, as his unthinking immaterial part does 

1744] POPE. 337 

from human understanding.'' Thus begin the hostiHty between 
Pope and Dennis, which, though it was suspended for a short 
time, never was appeased. Pope seems, at first, to have 
attacked him wantonly ; but though he always professed to 
despise him, he discovers, by mentioning him very often, that 
he felt his force or his venom. 

Of this Essay Pope declared that he did not expect the sale 
to be quick, because not one gentleman in sixty, even of liberal 
education, could understand it. The gentlemen and the educa- 
tion of that time seem to have been of a lower character than 
they are of this. He mentioned a thousand copies as a 
numerous impression. 

Dennis was not his only censurer; the zealous papists 
thought the monks treated with too much contempt, and 
Erasmus too studiously praised; but "to these objections he 
had not much regard. 

The Essay has been translated into French by Hamilton, 
author of the Comte de Grammont, whose version was never 
printed; by Robotham, secretary to the King for Hanover, and 
by Resnel ; and commented by Dr. Warburton, who has dis- 
covered in it such order and connection as was not perceived 
by Addison, nor, as is said, intended by the author. 

Almost every poem, consisting of precepts, is so far arbitrary 
and immethodical, that many of the paragraphs may change 
places with no apparent inconvenience ; for of two or more 
positions, depending upon some remote and general principle, 
there is seldom any cogent reason why one should precede the 
other. But for the order in which they stand, whatever it be, 
a little ingenuity may easily give a reason. It is possible, says 
Hooker, that by long circumduction, from any one-truth all truth 
may be inferred. Of all homogeneous truths at least, of all truths 
respecting the same general end, in whatever series they may 
be produced, a concatenatiori^ by intermediate^ ideas may be 
formed, such as, when it is once shewn, shall appear natural ; 
but if this order be reversed, another mode of connection 

338 POPE. [1688— 

equally specious may be found or made. Aristotle is praised 
for naming Fortitude first of the cardinal virtues, as that 
without which no other virtue can steadily be practised ; but 
he might, with equal propriety, have placed Prudence and 
Justice before it, since without Prudence Fortitude is mad ; 
without Justice, it is mischievous. 

As the end of method is perspicuity, that series is sufficiently 
regular that avoids obscurity ; and where there is no obscurity 
it will not be difficult to discover method. 

In the Spectator was pubHshed the Messia h, which he first 
submitted to the perusal of Steele, and corrected in compliance 
with his criticisms. 

It is reasonable to infer, from his Letters, that the verses on 
the Unfortunate Lady were written about the time when his 
Essay was published. ' The Lady's name and adventures I 
have sought with fruitless enquiry. 

I can therefore tell no more than I have learned from 
Mr. Ruffhead, who writes with the confidence of one who 
could trust his information. She was a woman of eminent 
rank and large fortune, the ward of an unkle, who, having 
given her a proper education, expected like other guardians 
that she should make at least an equal match ; and such he 
proposed to her, but found it rejected in favour of a young 
gentleman of inferior condition. 

Having discovered the correspondence between the two 
lovers, and finding the young lady determined to abide by 
her own choice, he supposed that separation might do what 
can rarely be done by arguments, and sent her into a foreign 
country, where she was obliged to converse only vrith those 
from whom her unkle had nothing to fear. 

Her lover took care to repeat his vows ; but his letters were 
intercepted and carried to her guardian, who directed her 
to be watched Avith still greater vigilance ; till of this restraint 
she grew so impatient, that she bribed a woman-servant to 
procure her a sword, which she directed to her heart. 

1744] POPE. 339 

From this account, given with evident intention to raise 
the Lady's character, it does not appear that she had any 
claim to praise, nor much to compassion. She seems to 
have been impatient, violent, and ungovernable. Her .unkle's 
power could not have lasted long; the hour of liberty and 
choice would have come in time. But her desires were too 
hot for delay, and she liked self-murder better than suspence. 

Nor is it discovered that the unkle, whoever he was, is with 
much justice delivered to posterity as s. false Guardian; he 
seems to have done only that for which a guardian is ap- 
pointed; he endeavoured to direct his "niece till she should 
be able to direct herself. Poetry has not often been worse 
employed than in dignifying the amorous fury of a raving girl. 

Not long after, he wrote the Rape of the Lock, the most 
airy, the most ingenious, and the most delightful of all his 
compositions, occasioned by a frolick of gallantry, rather too 
familiar, in which Lord Petre cut off a lock of Mrs. Arabella 
Termor's hair. This, whether stealth or violence, was so 
much resented, that the commerce of the two families, before 
very friendly, was interrupted. Mr. Caryl, a gentleman who, 
being secretary to King James's Queen, had followed his Mistress 
into France, and who being the author of Sir Solomon Single, 
a comedy, and some translations, was entitled to the notice ^y ' ' ' 
of a Wit, . solicited Pope to endeavour a reconciliation by a w^ " 
ludicrous poem, which might bring both the parties to a better 
temper. In compliance with Caryl's request, though his name 
was for a long time marked only by the first and last letter, 
C — 1, a poem of two_cantos was written (171 1), as is said, in 
a fortnight, and sent to the offended Lady, who liked it well 
enough to shew it ; and, with the usual process of literary 
transactions, the author, dreading a surreptitious edition, was 
forced to publish it. 

The event is said to have been such as. was desired ; the 
pacification and diversion of all to whom it related, except 
Sir George Brown, who complained with some bitterness that, 

z 2 

340 POPE. [1688— 

in the character of Sir Plume, he was made to talk nonsense. 
Whether all this be true, I have some doubt; for at Paris, 
a few years ago, a niece of Mrs. Fermor, who presided in an 
English Convent, mentioned Pope's work with very little 
gratitude, rather as an insult than an honour; and she may 
be supposed to have inherited the opinion of her family. 

At its first appearance it was termed by Addison merum sal. 
Pope, however, saw that it was capable of improvement ; and, 
having luckily contrived to borrow his machinery from the 
R osicr ucians, imparted the scheme with which his head was 
teeming to Addison, who told him that his work, as it stood, 
was a delicious little thing, and gave him no encourageihent to 
retouch it. 

This has been too hastily considered as an instance of 
Addison's jealousy; for as he could not guess the conduct 
of the new design, or the possibilities of pleasure comprised 
in a fiction of which there had been no examples, he might 
' very reasonably and kindly persuade the author to acquiesce 
in his own prosperity, and forbear an attempt which he 
considered as an unnecessary hazard. 

Addison's counsel was happily rejected. Pope foresaw the 
future efflorescence of imagery then budding, in his mind, and 
resolved to spare no art, or industry of culti^tion. The soft 
luxuriance of his fancy was already shooting, afid all the gay 
varieties of diction were ready at his hand to colour and 
embellish it. \ 

His attempt was justified by its success. The \Rape of the 
Lock stands forward, in the classes of literature,! as the most 
exquisite example of ludicrous poetry. Berkeley congratulated 
him upon the display of powers more truly poetical than he 
had shewn before; with elegance of description and justness 
of precepts, he had now exhibited boundless fertility of 

He always considered the intermixture of the machinery 
with the action as his most successful exertion of poetical 

1744] POPE. 341 

art. He indeed could never afterwards produce anything of 
such unexampled excellence. Those performances, which 
strike with wonder, are combinations of skilful genius with 
happy casualty; and it is not likely that any felicity, like 
the discovery of a new race of preternatural agents, should 
happen twice to the same man. 

Of this poem the author was, I think, allowed to enjoy 
the praise for a long time without disturbance. Many years 
afterwards Dennis published some remarks upon it, with very 
little force, and with no effect ; for the opinion of the publick 
was already settled, and it was no longer at the mercy of 

About this time he published the Temple of Fame, which, 
as he tells Steele in their correspondence, he had written two . 
years before ; that is, when he was only twenty-two years old, 
an early time of life for so much learning and so much 
observation as that work exhibits. 

On this poem Dennis afterwards published some remarks, 
of which the most reasonable is, that some of the lines 
represent motion as exhibited by scutfture. ' 

Of the Epistle from Eloisa to Abelard, I do not know the 
date. His first inclination to attempt a composition of that 
tepder kind arose, as Mr. Savage told me, from his perusal 
of Prior's Nut-brown Maid. How much he has surpassed 
Prior's work it is not necessary to mention, when perhaps it 
may be said with justice, that he has excelled every com- ^ 
position of the same kind. The mixture of religious hope 
and resignation gives an elevation and dignity to disappointed 
love, which images merely natural cannot bestow. The gloom 
of a convent strikes the imagination with far greater force than 
the solitude of a grove. 

This piece was, however, not much his favourite in his 
latter years, though I never heard upon what principle he 
slighted it. 

In the next year (17 13) he published Windsor Forest; of 

342 POPE. [1688— 

which part was, as he relates, written at sixteen, about the 
same time as his Pastorals, and the latter part was added 
afterwards : where the addition begins we are not told. The 
I lines relating to the Peace confess their own date. It is 
dedicated to Lord Lansdowne, who was then high in reputation 
and influence among the Tories ; and it is said, that the con- 
clusion of the poem gave great pain to Addison, both as a 
poet and a politician. Reports like this are often spread with 
boldness very disproportionate to their evidence. Why should 
Addison receive any particular disturbance from the last lines 
of Windsor Forest? If contrariety of opinion could poison 
a politician, he would not live a day ; and, as a poet, he must 
have felt Pope's force of genius much more from many other 
parts of his works. 

The pain that Addison might feel it is not likely that he 
would confess; and it is certain that he so well suppressed 
his discontent, that Pope now thought himself his favourite; 
for having been consulted in the revisal of Cato, he introdu ced 
it-43jr_aj£ja3l«gue ; and, when Dennis published his Remarks, 
undertook not indeed to vindicate but to revenge his friend, 
by a Narrative of the Frenzy of John Dennis. 

There is reason to believe that Addison gave no encourage- 
ment to this disingenuous hostility ; for, says Pope, in a letter 
to him, " indeed your opinion, that 'tis entirely to be neglected, 
would be my own in my own case ; but I felt more warmth 
here than I did when I first saw his book against myself 
(though indeed in two minutes it made me heartily merry)." 
Addison was not a man on whom such cant of sensibility 
could make much impression. He left the pamphlet to 
itself, having disowned it to Dennis, and perhaps did not 
think Pope to have deserved much by his ofificiousness. 
, This year was printed in the Guardian the ironical comparison 
i between the Pastorals of PhiUps and Pope ; a composition of 
artifice, criticism, and literature, to which nothing equal wiU 
easily be found. The superiority of Pope is so ingeniously 

1744] POPE. 343 

dissembled, and the feeble lines of Philips so skilfully pre- 
ferred, that Steele, being deceived, was unwilling to print the 
paper lest Pope should be oifended. Addison inrmediately 
saw the writer's design ; and, as it seems, had malice enough 
to conceal his discovery, and to permit a publication which, 
by making his friend Philips ridiculous, made him for ever an 
enemy to Pope. 

It appears that about this time Pope had a strong inclination 
to unite the art of Painting "with that of Poetry, and put himself 
under the tuition of Jervas. He was near-sighted, and there- 
fore not formed by nature for a painter : he tried, however, 
how far he could advance, and sometimes persuaded his friends '^ ^ ^ 
to sit. A picture of Bgtterton, supposed to be drawn by him,, , r 
was in the possession of Lord Mansfield : if this was taken from ^'^^ ' 
the life, he must have begun to paint earlier ; for Betterton was '' ' ' 
now dead. Pope's ambition of this new art produced some 
encomiastick verses to Jervas, which certainly shew his power 
as a poet, but I have been told that they betray his ignorance 
of painting. 

He appears to have regarded Betterton with kindness and 
esteem ; and after his death published, under his name, a 
version into modern English of Chaucer's Prologues, and one 
of his Tales, which, as was related by Mr. Harte, were believed 
to have been the performance of Pope himself by Fenton, who 
made him a gay. offer of five pounds if he would shew them in 
the hand of Betterton. 

The next year (17 13) produced a bolder attempt, by which 
profit was sought as well as praise. The poems which he had 
hitherto written, however they might have diffused his name, 
had made very little addition to his fortune. The allowance 
which his father made him, though, proportioned to vrhai he 
had, it might be liberal, could not be large ; his religion hindered 
him from the occupation of any civil emplo)rment, and he com- 
plained that he wanted even money to buy books.' 
^ S pence. 

344 POPE. [1688— 

He therefore resolved to try how far the favour of the publick 
extended, by soHciting a subscription to a version of the IHad, 
with large notes. 

To print by subscription was, for some time, a practice 
peculiar to the English. The first considerable work for which 
this expedient was employed is said to have been Dryden's 
Virgil ; and it had been tried again with great success when the 
Tatlers were collected into volumes. 

There was reason to believe that Pope's attempt would be 
successful. He was in'the full bloom of reputation, and was 
personally known to almost all whom dignity of employment 
or splendour of reputation had made eminent ; he conversed 
indifferently with both parties, and never disturbed the publick 
with his political opinions ; and it might be naturally expected, 
as each faction then boasted its literary zeal, that the great men, 
who on other occasions practised all the violence of opposition, 
would emulate each other in their encouragement of a poet who 
had delighted all, and by whom none had been offended. 

With those hopes, he offered an English Iliad to subscribers, 
in six volumes in (juarto, for six guineas ; a sum, according to 
the value of money at that time, by no means inconsiderable, 
and greater than I believe to have been ever asked before. 
His proposal, however, was very favourably received, and the 
patrons of literature were busy to recommend his undertaking, 
and promote his interest. Lord Oxford, indeed, lamented that 
such a genius should be wasted upon a work not original ; but 
proposed no means by which he might live without it : Addison 
recommended caution and moderation, and advised him not 
to be content with the praise of half the nation when he might 
be universally favoured. 

The greatness of the design, the popularity of the author, and 
the attention of the literary world, naturally raised such expecta- 
tions of the future sale,|that the booksellers made their offers with 
great eagerness; but the highest bidder was Bernard Lintot, 
who became proprietor on condition of supplying, at his own 

1744] POPE. 345 

expence, all the copies which were to be delivered to sub- 
scribers, or presented to friends, and paying two hundred 
pounds for every volume. 

Of the Quartos it was, I believe, stipulated that none should 
be printed but for the author, that the subscription might not 
be depreciated ; but Lintot impressed the same pages upon a 
small Folio, and paper perhaps a little thinner ; and sold 
exactly at half the price, for half a guinea each volume, books 
so little inferior to the Quartos, that, by a fraud of trade, those 
Folios, being afterwards shortened by cutting away the top and 
bottom, were sold as copies printed for the subscribers. 

Lintot printed two hundred and fifty on royal paper in 
Folio for two guineas a volume ; of the small Folio, having 
printed seventeen hundred and fifty copies of the first volume, 
he reduced the number in the other volumes to a thousand. 

It is unpleasant to relate that the bookseller, after all his 
hopes and all his liberality, was, by a very unjust and illegal 
action, defrauded of his profit. An edition of the English 
Iliad was printed in Holland in Duodecimo, and imported 
clandestinely for the gratification of those who were impatient 
to read what they could not yet afford to buy. This fraud could 
only be counteracted by an edition equally cheap and more com- 
modious ; and Lintot was compelled to contract his Folio at 
once into a Duodecimo, and lose the advantage of an inter- 
mediate gradation. The notes, which in the Dutch copies 
were placed at the end of each book, as they had been in the 
large volumes, were now subjoined to the text in the same 
page, and are therefore more easily consulted. Of this edition 
two thousand five hundred were first printed, and five thousand 
a few weeks afterwards ; but indeed great numbers were 
necessary to produce considerable profit. 

Pope, having now emitted his proposals, and engaged not 
only his own reputation, but in some degree that of his friends 
who patronised his subscription, began to be frighted at his- 
own undertaking; and finding himself at first embarrassed 

346 1 POPE. [1688— 

with i difficulties, which retarded and oppressed him, he was 
for a time timorous and uneasy ; had his nights disturbed by 
dreams of long journeys through unknown ways, and wished, ' 
as he said, that somebody would hang him^ 

This misery, however, was not of long continuance j he 
grew by degrees more acquainted with Homer's images and 
expressions, and practice increased his facility of versification. 
In a short time he represents himself as dispatching regularly 
fifty verses a day, which would shew him by an easy com- 
putation the termination of his labour. 

His own diffidence was not his only vexation. He that asks 
a subscription soon finds that he has enemies. All who do not 
encourage him defame him. He that wante money will 
rather be thought angry than poor, and he that wishes to save 
his money conceals his avarice by his malice. Addison had 
hinted his suspicion that Pope was too much a Tory; and 
some of the Tories suspected his principles because he had 
contributed to the Guardian, which was carried on by Steele. 

To those who censured his politicks were added enemies yet 
more dangerous, who called in question his knowledge of Greek, 
and his qualifications for a translator of Homer. To these he 
made no publick opposition ; but in one of his Letters escapes 
frpm them as well as he can. At an age like his — for he was 
not more than twenty-five^with an irregular education, and a 
course of life of which much seems to have passed in conver- 
sation, it is not very likely that he overflowed with Greek. 
But when he felt himself deficient he sought assistance ; and 
what man of learning would refuse to help him ? Minute 
enquiries into the force of words are less necessary in translating 
Homer than other poets, because his positions are general, and 
his representations natural, with very little dependence on local 
or temporary customs, on those changeable scenes of artificial 
life, which, by mingling original with accidental notions, and 
crowding the mind with images which time effaces, produce 
'^ S pence. 


1744] POPE. 347 

ambiguity in diction, and obscurity in books. To this open 
display of unadulterated nature it must be ascribed, that Homer 
has fewer passages of doubtful meaning than any other poet 
either in the learned or in modern languages. I have read of 
a man, who being, by his ignorance of Greek, compelled to 
gratify his curiosity with the Latin printed on the opposite 
page, declared that from the rude simplicity of the lines literally 
rendered, he formed nobler ideas of the Homeric majesty than 
from the laboured elegance of polished versions. 

Those literal translations were always at hand, and from 
them h^ could easily obtain his author's sense with sufficient 
certainty; and among the readers of Homer the number \ 
is very small of those who find much in the Greek more j 
than iii the Latin, except the musick of the numbers. <f^' e^^> 

If more help was wanting, he had the poetical translatiorih'i v- i~- 
of Eobanug_Hessus, an unwearied writer of Latin verses; he/t/f-f 
had the French Homers of L'a YsJterie and Dacier, and the li't^ 
English of Chapman, Hobbes, and Ogylby. With Chapman, j. 
whose work, though now totally neglected, seems to have been 
popular almost to the end of the last century, he had very 
frequent consultations, and perhaps never translated any 
passage till he had read his version, which indeed he has 
been sometimes suspected of using instead of the original. 

Notes were likewise to be provided ; for the six volumes 
would have been very little more than six pamphlets without 
them. What the mere perusal of the text could suggest. 
Pope wanted no assistance to collect or methodize ; but 
more was necessary; many pages were to be filled, and 
learning must supply materials to wit and judgement. Some- 
thing might be gathered from Dacier ; but no man loves to 
be indebted to his contemporaries, and! Dacier was accessible 
to common readers. Eustathius was therefore necessarily * 
consulted. To read Eustpihius, of whose work there was 
then no Latin version,- I suspect Pope, if he had been 
willing, not to have been able; some other was therefore 

/ i/^ { UV: . - ;■■ ^- "-•- 9 & > K 

348 POPE. [16SS— 

to be found, who had leisure as well as abilities, and he 
was doubtless most readily employed who would do much 
work for little money. 

The history of the notes has never been traced. Bjoome, 
in his preface to his poems, declares himself the commentator 
^i.j f in part upon the Iliad; and it appears from Fqnton's Letter, 
_j-^-lk preserved in the Museum, that Broome was at first engaged 
: " in consulting Eustathius ; but that after a time, whatever was 
the *teason, he desisted : another man of Cambridge was then 
employed, who soon grew weary of the work; and a third, 
that was recommended by Thirlby, is now discovered to have 
been Jortin, a man since well known to the learned world, 
who complained that Pope, having accepted and approved 
his performance, never testified any curiosity to- see him, and 
who professed to have forgotten the terms on which he worked. 
The terms which Fenton uses are very mercantile : / think at 
first sight that his performance is very commendable, and have 
sent word for him to foiish the iph book, and to send -it with 
his demands for his trouble. I have here enclosed the specimen; 
if the rest come before th^ return, I will keep them till I receive 
your order. 

Broome then offered his service a second time, which was 
probably accepted, as they had afterwards a closer correspon- 
dence. Parnell contributed the Life of Homer, which Pope 
found so harsh, that he took great pains in correcting it ; and 
by his own dihgence, with such help as kindness or money 
could procure him, in somewhat more than five years he 
completed his version of the Iliad, with the notes. He began 
it in 17 1 2, his twenty-fifth year, and concluded it in 17 18, his 
thirtieth year. 

When we find him translating fifty lines a day, it is natural 
to suppose that he would have brought his work to a more 
speedy conclusion. The Iliad, containing less than sixteen 
thousand verses, might have been dispatched in less than 
three hundred and twenty days by fifty verses in a day. 


1744] POPE. ,349 

The notes, compiled with the assistance of his mercenaries, 
could not be supposed to require more time than the text. 
According to this calculation, the progress of Pope may seem 
to have been slow ; but the distance is commonly very great 
between actual performances and speculative possibility. It 
is natural to suppose, that as much as has been done to-day 
may be done to-morrow; but on the morrow some difficulty 
emerges, or some external impediment obstructs. Indolence, 
interruption, business, and pleasure, all take their turns of 
' retardation ; and every long work is lengthened by a thousand 
causes that can, and ten thousand that cannot, be recounted. 
Perhaps no extensive and multifarious performance was ever 
effected within the term originally fixed in the undertaker's ^^ 
mind. He that rui«_against Time, has an antagonist not, .„w 
subject to casualties. '^'-''^ ' ' 

The encouragement given to this translation, though report 
seems to have over-rated it, was such as the world has not often 
seen. The subscribers were five hundred and seventy-five. 
The copies for which subscriptions were given were six hundred 
and fifty-four ; arid only six hundred and sixty were printed. 
For those copies Pope had nothing to pay; he therefore 
received, including the two hundred pounds a volume, five 
thousand three hundred and twenty pounds four shillings, 
without deduction, as the books were supplied by Lintot. 

By the success of his subscription Pope was reheved from 
those pecuniary distresses with which, notwithstanding his 
popularity, he had hitherto struggled. Lord Oxford had often 
lamented his disqualification for public employment, but never 
proposed a pension. While the translation of Homer was in 
its progress, Mr. Craggs, then secretary of state, offered to 
procure him a pension, which, at least during his ministry, 
might be enjoyed with secrecy. This was not accepted by Pope, 
who told him, however, that, lY he should, be pressed with want 
of money, he would send to him for occasional supplies. 
Craggs was not long in power, and was never solicited for 

350 POPE. [1688— 

money by Pope, who disdained to beg what he did not 

With the product of this subscription, which he had too 
much discretion to squander, he secured his future life from 
want, by considerable annuities. The estate of the Duke of 
• Buckingham was found to have been charged with five hundred 
pounds a years, payable to Pope, which doubtless his translation 
enabled him to purchase. 

It cannot be unwelcome to literary curiosity, that I deduce 
thus minutely the history of the English Iliad. It is certainly 
the noblest version of poetry which the world has ever seen ; 
and its publication must therefore be considered as one of the 
great events in the annals of Learning. 

To those who have skill to estimate the excellence and 
difficulty of this great work, it must be very desirable to know 
how it was performed, and by what gradations it advanced to 
correctness. Of such an intellectual process the knowledge has 
very rarely been attainable ; but happily there remains the 
original copy of the Iliad, which, being obtained by Bolingbroke 
as a curiosity, descended from him to Mallet, and is now by the 
solicitation of the late Dr. Maty reposited in the Museum. 

Between this manuscript, which is written upon accidental 
fragments of paper, and the printed edition, there must have 
been an intermediate copy, that was perhaps destroyed as it 
returned from the press. 

From the first copy I have procured a few transcripts, and 
shall exhibit first the printed lines ; then, in a smaller print, 
those of the-manuscripts, with all their variations. Those words 
in the small print which are given in Italics, are cancelled in the 
copy, and the words placed under them adopted in their stead. 

The beginning of the first book stands thus : 

The wrath of Peleus' son, the direful spring 
Of all the Grecian woes, O Goddess, sing ; 
That wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy reign 
The souls of mighty chiefs untimely slain. 

1744] POPE. 351 

The stem Pelides' rage, O Goddess, sing, 
Of all the woes of Greece the fatal spring, 

That strew'd with warriors dead the Phrygian plain, 

And peopled the dark hell with heroes slain ; 
fiU'd the shady hell with chiefs untimely 

Whose limbs, unburied on the naked shore, 

Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore, 

Since great Achilles and Atrides strove ; 

Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove. 

Whose limbs, unburied on the hostile shore, 

Devouring dogs and greedy vultures tore. 

Since first Atrides and Achilles strove ; 

Such was the sovereign doom, and such the will of Jove. 

Declare, O Muse, in what ill-fated hour 

Sprung the fierce strife, from what offended Power ! 

Latona's son a dire contagion spread, 

And heap'd the camp with mountains of the dead ; 

The King of Men his reverend priest defy'd. 

And for the King's offence the people dy'd. 

Declare, O Goddess, what offended Power 
Enflam'd their rage, in that ill-omen' d hour ;, 

anger fatal, hapless 

Phoebus himself the dire debate procur'd, 

T' avenge the wrongs his injur'd priest endur'd ; 
For this the God a dire infection spread, 
And heap'd the camp with millions of the dead : 
The King of Men the sacred Sire defy'd. 
And for the King's offence the people dy'd. 

For Chryses sought with costly gifts to gain 
His captive daughter from the Victor's chain ; 
Suppliant the venerable Father stands, 
Apollo's awful ensigns grace his hands. 
By these he begs, and, lowly bending down, 
Extends the sceptre and the laurel crown. 

For Chryses sought h^ presents to regain 

costly gifts to gain 
His captive daughter from the Victor's chain ; 
Suppliant tl^e venerable Father stands, 
Apollo's awful ensigns grac'd his hands. 

352 , POPE. [i68S— 

By these he begs,, and lowly bending down 
The golden sceptre and the laurel crown, 
Presents the sceptre 
For these as ensigns of his Cod he bare. 
The God that sends his golden shafts afar ; 
The low on earth, the venerable man, 
Suppliant before the brother kings began. 

He sued to all, but chief implor'd for grace 
The brother kings of Atreus' royal race ; 
Ye kings and warriors, may your vows be crown' d, 
And Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground ; 
May Jove restore you, when your toils, are o'er, 
Safe to the pleasures of your native shore. 

To all he sued, but chief implor'd for grace 
The brother kings of Atreus royal race. 
Ye sons of Atreus, may your vows be crown'd, 
Kings and warriors 

Your labours, by the Gods be all your labours crmirHd ; 
So may the Gods your aifms with conquest bless. 
And Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground ; 

Till laid 

And crown your labours with deserv'd success ; 
May Jove restore you, when your toils are o'er, 
Safe to the pleasures of your native shore. 

But, oh ! relieve a wretched parent's pain, 
And give Chryseis to these arms again ; 
If mercy fail, yet let my present move, 
And dread avenging Phoebus, son of Jove. 

But, oh ; relieve a hapless parent's pain. 
And give my daughter to these arms again ; 
Receive my gifts ; if mercy fails, yet let my present move. 
And fear the God that deals his darts around, 
avenging Phoebus, son of Jove. 

The Greeks, in shouts, their joint assent declare 
The priest to reverence, and release the fair. 
Not so Atrides : he, with kingly pride, 
Repuls'd the sacred Sire, and thus reply'd. 

He said, the Greeks their joint assent declare, 
The father said, tkegen'rous Greeks relent, 
T' accept the ransom, and release the fair : 
Revere the priest, and speak their joint assent : 
Not so the tyrant, he, with kingly pride, 

Repuls'd the sacred Sire, and thus reply'd. 

[Not so the tyrant. Dryden.] 

1744] POPE. 353 

Of these lines, and of the whole first book, I am told that 
there was yet a former copy, more varied, and more deformed 
with interlineations. 

The beginning of the secpnd book varies very little from the 
printed page, and is therefore set down without any parallel : 
the few slight differences do not require to be elaborately 

Now pleasing sleep had seal'd each mortal eye ; 
Stretch'd in their tents the Grecian leaders lie ; 
Th' Immortals slumber'd on their thrones above. 
All but the ever- watchful eye of Jove. 
To honour Thetis' son he bends his care, 
' And plunge the Greeks in all the woes of war. 
Then bids an empty phantom rise to sight, 
And thus commands the vision of the night : 

Fly hence, delusive dream, and, light as air. 
To Agamemnon's royal tent repair ; 
Bid him in arms draw forth th' embattled train, 
March all his legions to the dusty plain. 
Now tell the King 'tis given him to destroy 
Declare ev'n now 
The lofty walls of wide-extended Troy ; 

For now no more the Gods with Fate contend ; 
At Juno's suit the heavenly factions end. 
Destruction hovers o'er yon devoted wall, 

And nodding Ilium waits th' impending fall. 

Invocation to the Catalogue of Ships. 

Say, Virgins, seated round the throne divine. 
All-knowing Goddesses ! immortal Nine ! 
Since earth's wide regions, heaven's unmeasured height, 
And hell's abyss, hide nothing from your sight, 
(We, wretched mortals ! lost in doubts below. 
But guess by rumour, and but boast we know) 
Oh say what heroes, fir'd by thirst of fame. 
Or urg'd by wrongs, to Troy's destruction came ! 
To count them all, demands a thousand tongues, 
A throat of brass and adamantine lungs. 

A A 

354 POPE. [1688— 

Now, Virgin Goddesses, immortal Nine ! 
That round Olympus' heavenly summit shine, 
Who see through heaven and earth, and hell profound, 
And all things know, and all things can resound ; 
Relate what armies sought the Trojan land. 
What nations follow'd, and what chiefs command ; 
(For doubtful Fame distracts mankind below. 
And nothing can we tell, and nothing know) 
Without your aid, to count th' unnumber'd train,' 
A thousand mouths, a thousand tongues were vain. 

Book 'Sf. V. I. 

But Pallas now Tydides' soul inspires. 
Fills with her force, and warms with all her fires : 
Above the Greeks his deathless fame to raise, 
And crown her hero with distinguish'd praise, 
High on his helm celestial lightnings play. 
His beamy shield emits a living ray ; 
Th' unwearied blaze incessant streams supplies, 
Like the red star that fires th' autumnal skies. 

But Pallas now Tydides' soul inspires. 
Fills with her rage, and warms with all her fires ; 

O'er all the Greeks decrees his fame to raise, 
Above the Greeks her warrior's fame to raise, 

his deathless 
And crown her hero with immortal praise : 

Bright from his beamy crest the lightnings play. 
High on helm 

From his broad buckler flash'd the living ray, 
High on his helm celestial lightnings play. 
His beamy shield emits a living ray. 
The Goddess with her breath the flame supplies, 
Bright as the star whose fires in Autumn rise ; 
Her breath divine thick streaming flame supplies. 
Bright as the star that fires the autumnal sl<ies : 
Th' unwearied blaze incessant streams supplies. 
Like the red star that fires th' autumnal skies. 

When first he rears his radiant orb to sight. 
And bath'd in ocean shoots a keener light. 
Such glories Pallas on the chief bestow' d, 
Such from his arms the fierce effulgence flow'd ; 
Onward she drives him furious to engage, 
Where the fight burns, and where the thickest rage. 

When fresh he rears his radiant orb to sight, 
And gilds old Ocean with a blaze of light. 

1744] POPE. 355 

Bright as the star that fires th' autumnal skies, 
Fresh from the deep, and gilds the seas and skies. 
Such glories Pallas on her chief bestow'd, 
Such sparkling rays from his bright armour flow'd. 
Such from his arms the fierce effulgence flow'd. 
Onward she drives him headlong to engage, 

^ furious 
Where the war bleeds, and where the fiercest rage, 
fight burns, thickest 

The sons of Dates first the combat sought, 
A wealthy priest, but rich without a fault ; 
In Vulcan's fane the father's days were led, 
The sons to toils of glorious battle bred. 

There liv'd a Trojan — Dares was his name. 
The priest of Vulcan, rich, yet void of blame ; 
The sons of Dares first the combat sought, 
A wealthy priest, but rich without a fault. 

Conclusion of Book VIII. v. 687. 

As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night, 
O'er heaven's clear azure spreads her sacred light ; 
When not a breath disturbs the deep serene, 
And not a cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene ; 
Around her throne the vivid planets roll, 
And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole : 
O'er the dark trees a yellower verdure slied. 
And tip with silver every mountain's head ; 
Then shine the vales — the rocks in prospect rise, 
A flood of glory bursts from all the skies ; 
The conscious swains, rejoicing in the sight. 
Eye the blue vault, and bless the useful light. 
So many flames before proud Ilion blaze. 
And lighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays ; 
The long reflexion of the distant fires 
Glearn_on the walTi, and tremble_^on the spires : 
A thoiisand piles the dusky horrors gild. 
And shpot a shad5cjustre o'er the field ; 
Full fifty guards each flaming pile attend, 
Whose umber'd arms by fits thick flashes send ; 
Loud neigh the coursers o'er their heaps of corn. 
And ardent warriors wait the rising mom. 

As when in stillness of the silent night. 
As when the moon in all her lustre bright. 
As when the moon, refulgent lamp of night, 
O'er heaven's clear azure sheds her silver light ; 
pure spreads sacred , 

A A 2 

3S6 POPE. [1688— 

As still in air the trembling lustre stood. 
And o'er its golden border shoots a flood ; 
When no loose gale disturbs the deep serene, 

not a breath 
And no dim cloud o'ercasts the solemn scene ; 

not a 
Around her silver throne the planets glow, 
And stars unnumber'd trembling beams bestow : 
Around her throne the vivid planets roll, 
And stars unnumber'd gild the glowing pole : 
Clear gleams of light o'er the dark trees are seen, 

o'er the dark trees a yellow sheds. 
O'er the dark trees a yellower green they shed, 
And tip with silver all the mountain heads 

And tip with silver every mountain's head. 
The vallies open, and the forests rise. 
The vales appear, the rocks in prospect rise, 
Then shine the vales, the rocks in prospect rise, 
All Nature stands reveal'd before our eyes ; 
A flood of glory bursts from all the skies. 
The conscious shepherd, joyful at the sight, 
Eyes the blue vault, and numbers every light. 
The conscious swains rejoicing at the sight 

shepherds gazing with delight 
Eye the blue vault, and bless the vivid light. 

useful _ 
So many flames before Ihe navy blaze, 

proud Ilion 
And lighten glimmering Xanthus with their rays, 
Wide o'er the fields to Troy extend the gleams. 
And tip the distant spires with fainter beams ; 
The long reflexions of the distant tires 
Gild the high walls, and tremble on the spires. 
Gleam on the walls, and tremble on the spires ; 
A thousand fires at distant stations bright. 
Gild the dark prospect, and dispel the night. 

Of these specimens every man who has cultivated poetry, or 
who delights to trace the mind from the rudeness of its first 
conceptions to the elegance of its last, will naturally desire a 
greater number ; but most other readers are already tired, and 
I am not writing only to poets and philosophers. 

The Iliad was published volume by volume, as the transla- 
tion proceeded ; the four first books appeared in 1715. The 

1744] POPE. 357 

expectation of this work was undoubtedly high, and every man 
who had connected his name with criticism, or poetry, was 
desirous of such intelligence as might enable him to talk upon 
the popular topick. Halifa x, who, by having been first a poet, 
and then a patron of poetry, had acquired the right of being a 
judge, was wiUing to hear some books while they were yet un- 
published. Of this rehearsal Pope afterwards gave the follow- 
ing account.^ 

"The famous Lord Halifax was rather a pretender to taste 
than really possessed of it. — When I had finished the two or 
t hree first bo oks of my translation of the Iliad, that LoidT de- 
sired to have the pleasure of hearing them read at his house. — • 
Addison, Congreve, and Garth, were there at the reading. In 
four or five places. Lord Halifax stopt me very civilly, and with 
a speech each time, much of the same kind, ' I beg your pardon, 
Mr. Pope; but there is something in that passage that does not 
quite please me. — Be so good as to mark the place, and con- 
sider it a little at your leisure. I'm sure you can give it a little 
turn.'— I returned from LordJ Halifax's with Dr. Garth, in his 
cljariot; and, as we were going along, was saying to the Doctor, 
that my Lord had laid me under a good deal of difficulty by 
such loose and general observations ; that I had [.been thinking 
over the passages almost ever since, and could not guess at what 
it was that offended his Lordship in either of them. Garth 
laughed heartily at my embarrassment ; said, I had not been 
long enough acquainted with Lord Halifax to know his way yet ; 
that I need not puzzle myself about looking those places over 
and over, when I got home. 'All you need do (says he) is to 
leave them just as they are; call on Lord Halifax two or three 
months hence, thank him for his kind observations on those 
passages, and then read them to him as altered. I have known 
him much longer than you have, and will be answerable for the 
event.' I followed his advice ; waited on Lord Halifax 
some time after ; said, I hoped he would find his objections 
^ Spence. 

3S8 POPE. [1688— 

to those passages removed ; read them to him exactly as they 
were at first: and his Lordship was extremely pleased with 
them, and cried out, Ay, now they are perfectly right : nothing 
can be better." 

It is seldom that the great or the wise suspect that they are 
despised or cheated. HaHfax, thinking this a lucky opportunity 
of securing immortality, made some advances of favour 'and 
some overtures of advantage to Pope, which he seems to have 
received with sullen coldness. All our knowledge of this 
transaction is derived from a single Letter (Dec. i, 17 14), in 
which Pope says, " I am obliged to you, both for the favours you 
have done me, and those you intend me. I distrust neither 
your will nor your memory, when it is to do good ; and if I 
ever become troublesome or solicitous, it must not be out of 
expectation, but out of gratitude. Your Lordship may cause 
me to live agreeably in the town, or contentedly in the country, 
which is really all the difference I set between an easy fortune 
and a small one. It is indeed a high strain of generosity in 
you to think of making me easy all my life, only because I have 
been so happy as to divert you some fefw hours ; but, if I may 
have leave to add it is because you think me no enemy to 
my native country, there will appear a better reason; for I 
must of consequence be very much (as I sincerely am) 
yours, &c." 

These voluntary offers, and this faint acceptance, ended 
without effect. The patron was not accustomed to such frigid 
gratitude, and the poet fed his own pride with the dignity of 
independence. They probably were suspicious of each other. 
Pope would not dedicate till he saw at what rate his praise 
was valued ; he would be troublesome out of gratitude, not 
expectation. Halifax thought himself entitled to confidence ; 
and would give nothing, unless he knew what he should receive. 
Their commerce had its beginning in hope of praise on one 
side, and of money on the other, and ended because Pope was 
less eager of money than Halifax of praise. It is not likely 

1744] POPE. 359 

that Halifax had any personal benevolence to Pope ; it is 
evident that Pope looked on Halifax with scorn and hatred. 

The reputation of this great work failed of gaining him a patron; 
but it deprived him of a friend. Addison and he were now at 
the head of poetry and criticism ; and both in such a state of 
elevation, that, like the two rivals in the Roman state, one 
could no longer bear an equal, nor the other a superior. Of 
the gradual abatement of kindness between friends, the 
beginning is often scarcely discernible by themselves, and the 
process is continued by petty provocations, and incivilities 
sometimes peevishly returned, and sometimes contemptuously 
neglected, which would escape all attention but that of pride, 
and drop from any memory but that of resentment. That the 
quarrel of those two wits should be minutely deduced, is not to 
be expected from a writer to whom, as Homer says, nothing but 
humour has reached, and who has no persotial knowledge. 

Pope doubtless approached Addison, when the reputation of 
their wit first brought them together, with the respect due to a man 
whose abilities were acknowledged, and who, having attained 
that eminence to which he was himself aspiring, had in his 
hands the distribution of literary fame. He paid court with 
sufficient diligence by his Prologue to Cato, by his abuse of 
Dennis, and, with praise yet more direct, by his poem on the 
Dialogues on Medals, of which the immediate publication was 
then intended. In all this there was no hypocrisy ; for he con- 
fessed that he found in Addison something more pleasing than 
in any other man. 

It may be supposed, that as Pope saw himself favoured by 
the world, and more frequently compared his own powers with 
those of others, his confidence increased, and his submission 
lessened ; and that Addison felt no delight from the advances 
of a young wit, who might soon contend with him for the 
highest place. Every great man, of whatever kind be his 
greatness, has among his friends those who officiously, or 

insidiously, quicken his attention to offences, heighten his 

36o " .POPE. [1688— 

disgust, and stimulate his resentment. Of such adherents 
Addison doubtless had many, and Pope was now too high to 
be without them. 

From the emission and reception of the Proposals for the 
Iliad, the kindness of Addison seems to have abated. Jervas 
the painter once pleased himself (Aug. 20, 17 14) with imagining 
that he had re-established their friendship ; and wrote to Pope 
that Addison once suspected him of too close a confederacy 
with Swift, but was now satisfied with his conduct. To this 
Pope answered, a week after, that his engagements to Swift 
were such as his services in regard to the subscription demanded, 
and that the Tories never put him under the necessity of asking 
-leave to be grateful. But, says he, as Mr. Addison must be the 
judge in what regards himself, and seems to he no very just one 
in regard to me, so I must own to you T expect nothing hut 
civility from him. In the same Letter he mentions Philips, 
as having been busy to kindle animosity between them ; but, 
in a Letter to Addison, he expresses some consciousness of 
behaviour inattentively deficient in respect. 

Of Swift's industry in promoting the subscription there 
remains the testimony of Kgnpet, no friend to either him or 

"Nov. 2, 1 7 13, Dr. Swift came into the coffee-house, and 
had a bow from every body but me, who, I confess, could not 
but despise him. When I came to the anti-chamber to wait, 
before prayers. Dr. Swift was the principal man of talk and 
business, and acted as master of requests. — Then he instructed 
a young nobleman that the hest Poet in England was Mr. Pope 
(a papist), who had begun a translation of Homer into English 
verse, for which he must have them all subscribe ; for, says he, 
the author shall not begin to print till /" have a thousand 
guineas for him." 

About this time it is likely that Steele, who was, with all his 
political fury, good-natured and ofl5cious, procured an interview 
between these angry rivals, which ended in aggravated 

1744] POPE. 361 

malevolence. On' this occasion, if the reports be true, Pope 
made his complaint with frankness and spirit, as a man 
undeservedly neglected or opposed ; and Addison affected a 
contemptuous unconcern, and, in a calm even voice, reproached 
Pope with his vanity, and, telling him of the improvements j 
which his early works had received from his own remarks and r,J), 
those of Steele, said, that he, being now engaged in public ,-, 
business, had no longer any care for his poetical reputation ; ,7 p// ■ 
nor had any other desire, with regard to Pope, than that his , ,. 
should not, by too much arrogance, alienate the publick. r: 

To this Pope is said to have replied with great keenness and 
severity, upbraiding Addison with perpetual dependance, and 
with the abuse of those qualifications which he had obtained at 
the publick cost, and charging him with mean endeavours to 
obstruct the progress of rising merit. The contest rose so high, 
that they parted at last without any interchange of civility. 

The' first volume of Homer was (1715) in time published; 
and a rival version of the first Iliad, for rivals the time of their 
appearance inevitably made them, was immediately printed, 
with the name of Tickell. It was soon perceived that, among 
the followers of Addison, Tickell had the preference, and the 
criticks and poets divided into factions. /, says Pope, have 
the town, that is, the mob, on my side; but it is not uncommon 
for the smaller party to supply by industry what it wants in 
numbers. — / appeal to the people as my rightful judges, and, 
while they are not inclined to condemn the, shall not fear the high- 
flyers at Button! s. This opposition he immediately imputed to 
Addison, and complained of it in terms sufficiently resentful to 
Craggs, their common friend. 

When Addison's opinion was asked, he declared the versions 
to be both good, but Tickell's the best that had ever been 
written ; and sometimes said that they were both good, but 
that Tickell had more of Homer. 

Pope was now sufficiently irritated ; his reputation and his 
interest were at hazard. He once intended to print together 

362 pope; [1688— 

the four versions of Dryden, Maynwaring, Pope, and Tickell, 
that they might be readily compared, and fairly estimated. 
This design seems to have been defeated by the refusal of 
Tonson, who was the proprietor of the other three versions. 

Pope intended at another time a rigorous criticism of Tickell's 

translation, and had marked a copy, which I have seen, in all 

places that appeared defective. But while he was thus medi- 

u ^^^_ , tating defence or revenge, his adversary sunk before him with- 

^, , ^ out a blow ; the voice of the publick was not long divided, 

and the preference was universally given to Pope's performance. 

He was convinced, by adding one circumstance to another, 

that the other translation was the work of Addison himself; 

but if he knew it in Addison's life-time, it does not appear that 

he told it. He left his illustrious antagonist to be punished 

by what has been considered as the most painful of all reflections, 

the remembrance of a crime perpetrated in vain. 

The other circumstances of their quarrel were thus related 

by Pope.'- 

,■; " Philips seems to have been encouraged to abuse me in 

coffee-houses- and conversations : and Gildon wrote a thing 

about Wycherley, in which he had abused both me and my 

' (relations very grossly. Lord Warwick himself told me one day, 

, ;i- ■ that it was in vain for me to endeavour to be well with Mr. 

- -- Addison ; that his jealous temper would never admit of a settled 

•( ./^-friendship between us: and, to convince me of what he had 

^., J said, assured me, that Addison had encouraged Gildon to 

' I publish those scandals, and had given him ten guineas after 

they were published. The next day, while I was heated with 

what I had heard, I wrote a Letter to Mr. Addison, to let him 

know that I was not unacquainted with this behaviour of his ; 

that if I was to speak severely of him, in return for it, it should 

be in such a dirty way, that I should rather tell him, himself, 

fairly of his faults, and allow his good qualities ; and that it 

should be something in the following manner : I then adjoined 

^ Spence. 



1744] POPE. 363 

the first sketch of what has since been called my Satire on 
Addison. Mr. Addison used me very civilly ever after.'' 

The verses on Addison, when they were sent to- Atterbury, 
were considered by him as the most excellent of Pope's per- 
formances ; and the writer was advised, since he knew where 
his strength lay, not to suffer it to remain unemployed. 

This year (iTiObeing, by the subscription, enabled to live 
more by choice, having persuaded his father to sell their estate 
at Binfield, he purchased, I think only for his life, that house at 
Twickenham to which his residence afterwards procured so much 
celebration, and removed thither with his father and mother. 

Here he planted the vines and the quincunx which his verses / L/ 
mention ; and being under the necessity of making a subter- ^ 
raneous passage to a garden on the other side of the road, he 
adorned it with fossile bodies, and dignified it with the title of 
a grotto ; a place of silence and retreat, from which he 
endeavoured to persuade his friends and himself that cares 
and passions could be excluded. 

A grotto is not often the wish or pleasure of an Englishman, 
who has more frequent need to solicit than exclude the sun ; 
but Pope's excavation was requisite as an entrance to his 
garden, and, as some men try to be proud of their defects, he 
extracted an ornament from an inconvenience, and vanity 
produced a grotto where necessity enforced a passage. It may 
be frequently remarked of the studious and speculative, that 
they are proud of trifles, and that their amusements seem 
frivolous and childish ; whether it be that men conscious of 
great reputation think themselves above the reach of censure, 
and safe in the admission of negligent indulgences, or that 
mankind expect from elevated genius an uniformity of great- 
ness, and watch its degradation with malicious wonder ; like 
him who having followed with his eye an eagle into the clouds, 
should lament that she ever descended to a perch. 

While the volumes of his Homer were annually published, 
he collected his former works (17 17) into one quarto volume, 

364 POPE. [1688— 

to which he prefixed a Preface, written with great spriteliness 
and elegance, which was afterwards reprinted, with some 
passages subjoined that he at first omitted ; other marginal 
additions of the same kind he made in the later editions 
of his poems. Waller remarks, that poets lose half their 
praise, because the reader knows not what they have blotted. 
Pope's voracity of fame taught him the art of obtaining the 
accumulated honour both of what he had published, and of 
what he had suppressed. 

In this year his father died suddenly, in his seventy-fifth 
year, having passed twenty-nine years in privacy. He is not 
known but by the character which his son has given him. If 
the money with which he retired was all gotten by himself, 
he had traded very successfully in times when sudden riches 
were rarely attainable. 

The publication of the Iliad was at last completed in 1720. 
The splendour and success of this work raised Pope many 
enemies, that endeavoured to depreciate his abilities ; Burnet, 
who was afterwards a Judge of no mean reputation, censured 
him in a piece called Homerides before it was published ; 
Ducket likewise endeavoured to make him ridiculous. Dennis 
was the -^perpetual persecutor of all his studies. But, whoever 
his criticks were, their writings are lost, and the names which 
are preserved are preserved in the Dunciad. 

In this disastrous year (1720) of national infatuation, when 
more riches than Peru can boast were expected from the South 
Sea, when the contagion of avarice tainted every mind, and 
even poets panted after wealth, Pope was seized with the 
universal passion, and ventured some of his money. The 
stock rose in its price ; and he for a while thought himself 
the Lord of thousands. But this dream of happiness did 
not last long, and he seems to have waked soon enough 
to get clear with the loss only of what he once thought 
himself to have won, and perhaps not wholly of that. 

Next year he published some select poems of his friend Dr. 

1744] POPE. 36s 

Parnell, with a very elegant Dedication to the Earl of Oxford ; 
who, after all his struggles and dangers, then lived in retire- 
ment, still under the frown of a victorious faction, who could 
take no pleasure in hearing his praise. 

He gave the same year (1721) an edition of Shakspeare. 
His name was now of so much authority, that Toilson thought 
himself entitled, by annexing it, to demand a subscription 
of six guineas for Shakspeare' s plays in six quarto volumes ; 
nor did his expectation much deceive him ; for of seven 
hundred and fifty which he printed, he dispersed a great 
number at the price proposed. The reputation of that edition 
indeed sunk afterwards so low, that one hundred and forty 
copies were sold at sixteen shillings each. 

On this undertaking, to which Pope was induced by a 
reward of two hundred and seventeen pounds twelve shillings, 
he seems never to have reflected afterwards without vexation ; 
for Theobald, a man of heavy diligence, with very slender 
powers/~Hrst, in a book^ called Shakspeare Restored, and 
then in a formal edition, detected his deficiencies with all 
the insolence of victory ; and, as he was now high enough 
to be feared and hated, Theobald had from others all the 
help that could be supplied, by the desire of humbling a 
haughty character. 

From this time Pope became an enemy to editors, collaters, 
commentators, and verbal criticks ; and hoped to persuade the 
world that he miscarried in this undertaking only by having 
a mind too great for such minute employment. 

Pope in his edition undoubtedly did many tilings wrong, and 
left many things undone ; but let him not be defrauded of his 
' due praise. He was the first that knew, at least the first that 
told, by what helps the text might be improved. If he in- 
spected the early editions negligently, he taught others to be 
more accurate. In his Preface he expanded with great skill 
and elegance the character which had been given of Shak- 
speare by Dryden; and he drew the publick attention upon 

366 POPE. [1688— 

his works, which, though often mentioned, had been little 

Soon after the appearance of the Iliad, resolving not to let 
the general kindness cool, he published proposals for a trans- 
lation of the Odyssey, in five volumes, for five guineas. He was 
willing, however, now to have associates in his labour, being 
either weary with toiling upon another's thoughts, or having 
heard, as Ruffhead relates, that Fenton and Broome had 
already begun the work, and liking better to have them 
confederates than rivals. 

In the patent, instead of saying that he had translated the 
Odyssey, as he had said of the Iliad, he says that he had under- 
taken a translation ; and in the proposals the subscription is 
said to be not solely for his own use, but for that of two of 
his friends who have assisted him in this work. 

In 1723, while he was engaged in this new version, he 
appeared before the Lords at the memorable trial of Bishop 
Atterbury, with whom he had lived in great familiarity and 
' frequent correspondence. Atterbury had honestly recom- 
mended to him the study of the popish controversy, in hope 
- of his conversion ; to which Pope answered in a manner that 
^cannot much recommend his principles or his judgement. In 
questions and projects of learning, they agreed better. He 
was called at the trial to give an account of Atterbury's 
domestick life and private employment, that it might appear 
how little time he had left for plots. Pope had but few words 
to utter, and in those few he made several blunders. 

His Letters to Atterbury express the utmost esteem, tender- 
ness, and gratitude : perhaps, says he, it is not only in this world 
that I may have cause to remember the Bishop of Rochester. At 
their last interview in the Tower, Atterbury presented him with 
a Bible. 

Of the Odyssey Pope translated only twelve books ; the rest 
were the work of Broome and Fenton : the notes were written 
wholly by Broome, who was not over-liberally rewarded. The 

1744] POPE. 367 

Publick was carefully kept ignorant of the several shares ; and an 
account was subjoined at the conclusion, which is now known 
not to be true. 

The first copy of Pope's books, with those of Fenton, are to 
be seen in the Museum. The parts of Pope are less interlined 
than the Iliad, and the latter books of the Iliad less than the 
former. He grew dexterous by practice, and every sheet 
enabled him to write the next with more facility. The books 
of Fenton have very few alterations by the hand of Pope. 
Those of Broome have not been found ; but Pope complained, 
as it is reported, that he had much trouble in correcting 

His contract with Lintot was the same as for the Iliad, except 
that only one hundred pounds were to be paid him for each 
volume. The number of subscribers was five hundred and 
seventy-four, and of copies eight hundred and nineteen ; so that 
his profit, when he had paid his assistants, was still very con- 
siderable. The work was finished in 1725, and from that time 
he resolved to make no more translations. 

The sale did not answer Lintofs expectation, and he then 
pretended to discover something of fraud in Pope, and com- 
menced, or threatened, a suit in Chancery. 

On the English Odyssey a criticism was published by Spence, 
at that time Prelector of Poetry at Oxford; a man whose 
learning was not very great, and whose mind was not very 
powerful. His criticism, however, was commonly just; what 
he thought, he thought rightly ; and his remarks were recom- 
mended by his coolness and candour. In him Pope had the 
first experience of a critick without malevolence who thought 
it as much his duty to display beauties as expose faults; 
who censured with respect, and praised with alacrity. 

With this criticism Pope was so little offended, that he 
sought the acquaintance of the writer, who lived with him 
from that time in great familiarity, attended him in his last 
hours, and compiled memorials of his conversation. The 

368 POPE. [1688— 

regard of Pope recommended him to the great and powerful, 
and he obtained very valuable preferments in the Church. 

Not long after Pope was returning home from a visit in a 
friend's coach, which, in passing a bridge, was overturned into 
the water ; the windows were closed, and being unable to force 
them open, he was in danger of immediate death, when the 
postilion snatched him out by breaking the glass, of which the 
fragments cut two of his fingers in such a manner, that he lost 
their use. 

Voltaire, who was then in England, sent him a Letter, of 
Consolation. He had been entertained by Pope at his table, 
where he talked with so much grossness that Mrs. Pope was 
driven from the room. Pope discovered, by a trick, that he 
was a spy for the Court, and never considered him as a man 
worthy of confidence. 

He soon afterwards (1727) joined with Swift, who was then 
in England, to publish three volumes of Miscellanies, in which 
amongst other things he inserted the Memoirs of a Parish 
Clerk, in ridicule of Bidet's importance in his own History, 
' and a Debate upon Black and White Horses, written in all the 
! formalities of a legal process by the assistance, as is said, of 
.» Mr. Fortescue, afterwards Master of the Rolls. Before these 
Miscellanies is a preface signed by Swift and Pope, but ap- 
parently written by Pope ; in which he made a ridiculous and 
romantick complaint of the robberies committed upon authors 
by the clandestine seizure and sale of their papers. He tells, 
in tragic strains, how the cabinets of the Sick and the closets of 
the Dead have been broke open and ransacked ; as if those 
violences were often committed for papers of uncertain and 
accidental value, which are rarely provoked by real treasures ; 
as if epigrams and essays were in danger where gold and 
diamonds are safe. A cat, hunted for its musk, is, according 
to Pope's account, but the emblem of a wit winded by book- 

His complaint however, deceived some attestation; for 

1744] POPE. 369 ^ 

the same year the Letters written by him to Mr. Cromwell, ^ 
in his youth, were sold by Mrs. Thomas to Curll, who printed t 

In these Miscellanies was first published the Art of Sinking 
in Poetry, which, by such a train of consequences as usually 
passes in literary quarrels, gave in a short time, according to 
Pope's account, occasion to the Dunciad. 

In the following year (1728) he began to put Atterbury's |.,, 
advice in practice ; and shewed his satirical powers by publish- '• 
ing the Dunciad, one of his greatest and most elaborate per- ^,f < 
formances, in which he endeavoured to sink into contempt all | 
the writers by whom he had been attacked, and some others ^ 
whom he thought unable to defend themselves. 

At the head of the Dunces he placed poor Theobald, whom 
he accused of ingratitude ; but whose real crime was supposed 
to be that of having revised Shakspeare more happily than 
himself, This satire had the effect which he intended, by 
blasting the characters which it touched, i^algh, who, un- 
necessarily interposing in the quarrel, got a place in a subse- 
quent edition, complained that for a time he was in danger of 
starving; as the booksellers had no longer any confidence in 
^his capacity. ^ 

The prevalence of this poem was gradual and slow ; the 
plan, if not wholly new, was little understood by common 
readers. Many of the allusions required illustration; the 
names were often expressed only by the initial and final 
letters, and, if they had been printed at length, were such as 
few had known or recollected. The subject itself had nothing 
generally interesting, for whom did it concern to know that 
one or another scribbler was a dunce? If therefore it had 
been possible for those who were attacked to conceal their 
pain and their resentment, the DunciacJ might have made its 
way very slowly in the world. 

This, however, was not to be expected : every man is of 
importance to himself, and therefore, in his own opinion, to 

B E 

370 POPE. [1688— 

Others ; and, supposing the world already acquainted with all 
his pleasures and his pains, is perhaps the first to publish 
injuries or misfortunes, which had never been known unless 
related by himself, and at which those that hear them will 
only laugh ; for no man sympathises with the sorrows of 

The history of the Dunciad is very minutely related by 
Pope himself, in a Dedication which he wrote to Lord 
Middlesex in the name of Savage. 

"I will relate the war of the Dunces (for so it has been 
commonly called), which began in the year 1727, and ended 
in 1730. 

"When Dr. Swift and Mr. Pope 'thought it proper, for 
reasons specified in the Preface to their Miscellanies, to 
publish such little pieces of theirs as had casually got abroad, 
there was added to them the Treatise of. th e Bathos, or the 
Art of Sinking in Poetry. It happened that in one chapter 
of this piece the several species of bad poets were ranged 
in classes, to which were prefixed almost all the letters of 
the alphabet (the greatest part of them at random); but 
such was the number of poets eminent in that art, that 
some one or other took every letter to himself: all fell into 
so violent a fury, that, for half a year or more, the common 
newspapers (in most of which they had some property, as 
being hired writers) were filled with the most abusive false- 
hoods and scurrilities they could possibly devise. A liberty 
no way to be wondered at in those people, and in those 
papers, that for many years, during the uncontrouled license 
of the press, had aspersed almost all the great characters 
of the age; and this with impunity, their own persons and 
names being utterly secret and obscure. 

"This gave Mr. Pope the thought, that he had now some 
opportunity of doing good, by detecting and dragging into 
light these common enemies of mankind ; since to invalidate 
this universal slander, it sufficed to shew what contemptible 

1744] POPE. 371 

men were the authors of it. He was not without hopes that, 
by manifesting the dulness of those who had only malice to 
recommend them, either the booksellers would not find their 
account in employing them, or the men themselves, when 
discovered, want courage to proceed in so unlawful an 
occupation. This it was that gave birth to the Dunciad; 
and he thought it a happiness, that, by the late flood of 
slander on himself, he had acquired such a peculiar right 
over their names as was necessary to this design. 

"On the i2th of March, 1729, at St. James's, that poem 
was presented to the King and Queen (who had before 
been pleased to read it) by the right honourable Sir Robert 
Walpole; and some days after the whole impression was 
taken and dispersed by several noblemen and persons of 
the first distinction. 

"It is certainly a true observation, that no people are so 
impatient of censure as those who are the greatest slanderers, 
which was wonderfully exemplified on this occasion. On the 
day the book was first vend ed, a crowd of authors besieged 
the shop ; intreaties, advices, threats of law and battery, nay, 
cries of treason, were all employed to hinder the coming-out 
of the Dunciad : on the other side, the booksellers and 
hawkers made as great efforts to procure it. What could 
a few poor authors do against so great a majority as the 
publick? There was no stopping a torrent with a finger, 
so out it came. 

"Many ludicrous circumstances attended it. The Dunces 
(for by this name they were called) held weekly clubs, to 
consult of hostilities against the author : one wrote a Letter 
to a great minister, assuring him Mr. Pope was the greatest 
enemy the government had; and another bought his image 
in clay, to execute him in effigy, with which sad sort of 
satisfaction the gentlemen were a little comforted. 

"Some false editions of the book having an owl in their 
frontispiece, the true one, to distinguish it, fixed in its stead 

B B 2 

372 POPE. [1688— 

an ass laden with authors. Then another surreptitious one 
being printed with the same ass, the new edition in octavo 
returned for distinction to the owl again. Hence arose a 
great contest of booksellers against booksellers, and adver- 
tisements against advertisements ; some recommending the 
edition of the owl, and others the edition of the ass ; by 
which names they came to be distinguished, to the great 
honour also of the gentlemen of the Dunciad." 

Pope appears by this narrative to have contemplated his 
victory over the Dunces with great exultation ; and such was 
his delight in the tumult which he had raised, that for a while 
his natural sensibility was suspended, and he read reproaches 
and invectives without emotion, considering them only as the 
necessary effects of that pain which he rejoiced in having given. 
1 It cannot however be concealed that, by his own confession, 
he was the aggressor ; for nobody believes that the letters in 
the Bathos were placed at random ; and it may be discovered 
that, when he thinks himself concealed, he indulges the common 
vanity of common men, and triumphs in those distinctions 
which he had affected to despise. He is proud that his book 
was presented to the King and Queen by the right honourable 
Sir Robert Walpole j he is proud that they had read it before ; 
he is proud that the edition was taken off by the nobility and 
^ persons of the first distinction. 
1 The edition of which he speaks was, I believe, that which 
by tellmg in me text the names and in the notes the characters 
of those whom he had satirised, was made intelligible and 
diverting. The criticks had now declared their approbation 
of the plan, and the common reader began to like it without 
fear; those who were strangers to petty literature, and there- 
fore unable to decypher initials and blanks, had now names 
and persons brought within their view and delighted in the 
visible effect of those shafts of malice, which they had hitherto 
contemplated as shot into the air. 

Dennis, upon the fresh provocation now given him, renewed 

1744] POPE, 373 

the enmity which had for a time been appeased by mutual 
civilities ; and published remarks, which he had till then 
suppressed, upon the Rape of the Lock. Many more 
grumbled in secret, or vented their resentment in the news- 
papers by epigrams or invectives. 

Ducket, indeed, being mentioned as loving Burnet with 
pious passion, pretended that his moral character was injured, 
and for some time declared his resolution to take vengeance 
with a cudgel. But Pope appeased him, by changing pious 
passion to cordial friendship, and by a note, in which he 
vehemently disclaims the malignity of meaning imputed to 
the first expression. 

Aaron Hill, who was represented as diving for the prize, 
expostulated with Pope in a manner so much superior to 
all mean solicitation, that Pope was reduced to sneak and 
shuffle, sometimes to deny, and sometimes to apologize ; 
he first endeavours to wound, and is then afraid to own that 
he meant a blow. 

The Dunciad, in the complete edition, is addressed to ^ J 
Dr. Swift : of the notes, part was written by Dr. Ar buthn ot. ';/ ' 
and an apologetical Letter was prefixed, signed by Cleland, ' / 
but supposed to have been written by Pope. i-VjI'-i- 

After this general war upon dulness, he seems to have C • 
indulged himself a while in tranquillity; but his subsequent 
productions prove that he was not idle. He published (1731) 
a poem on Taste, in which he very particularly and severely 
criticises the house, the furniture, the gardens, and the enter- 
tainments of Timon, a man of great wealth and little taste. 
By Timon he was universally supposed, and by the Earl 
of Burlington, to whom the poem is addressed, was privately 
said, to mean the Duke of Chandos ; a man perhaps too much 
delighted with pomp and show, but of a temper kind and 
beneficent, and who had consequently the voice of the publick 
in his favour. 

A violent outcry was therefore raised against the ingratitude 

374 POPE. [1688— 

and treachery of Pope, who was said to have been indebted 
to the patronage of Chandos for a present of a thousand pounds, 
and who gained the opportunity of insulting him by the 
kindness of his invitation. 

The receipt of the thousand pounds Pope publickly denied ; 
but from the reproach which the attack on a character so 
amiable brought upon him, he tried all nieans of escaping. 
The name of Cleland was again employed in an apology, 
by which no man was satisfied ; and he was at last reduced 
to shelter his temerity behind dissimulation, and endeavour 
to make that disbelieved which he never had confidence 
openly to deny. He wrote an exculpatory letter to the 
Duke, which was answered with great magnanimity, as by 
a man who accepted his excuse without believing his pro- 
fessions. He said, that to have ridiculed his taste, or his 
buildings, had been an indifferent action in another man ; 
but that in Pope, after the reciprocal kindness that had been 
exchanged between them, it had been less easily excused. 

Pope, in one of his Letters, complaining of the treatment 
which his poem had found, owns that such criticks can 
intimidate him, tiay almost persuade him to write no more, 
which is a compliment this age deserves. The man who 
threatens the world is always ridiculous; for the world can 
easily go on without him, and in a short time will cease to 
miss him. I have heard of an idiot, who used to revenge 
his vexations by lying all night upon the bridge. There is 
nothing, says Juvenal, that a man will not believe in his own 
favour. Pope had been flattered till he thought himself one 
of the moving powers in the system of life. When he talked 
of laying down his pen, those who sat round him intreated 
and implored, and self-love did not suffer him to suspect 
that they went away and laughed. 

The following year deprived him of Gay, a man whom 
he had known early, and whom he seemed to love with 
more tenderness than any other of his literary friends. Pope 

1744] POPE. 375 

was now forty-four years old ; an age at which the mind begins 
less easily to admit new confidence, and the will to grow less 
flexible, and when therefore the departure of an old friend 
is very acutely felt. 

In the next year he lost his mother, not by an unexpected ;. ji.^'. 
death, for she had lasted to the age of ninety-three ; but she >j_ . 
did not die unlamented. The filial piety^'oTPope was 'my[''j 
the highest degree amiable and exemplary ; his parents had i ^^ , 
the happiness of living till he was at the summit of poetical "^ 
reputation, till he was at ease in his fortune, and without a 
rival in his fame,, and found, no diminution of his respect 
or tenderness. Whatever was his pride, to them he was 
obedient; and whatever was his irritability, to them he 
was gentle. Life has, among its soothing and quiet comforts, 
few things better to give than such a son.. 

One of the passages of Pope's life, which seems to deserve .^ 
some enquiry, was a publication of Letters between him and i 
many of his friends, which falling into the hands of Curll, ah' 
rapacious bookseller of no good fame, were by him printed and 
sold. This volume containing some Letters from noblemen. 
Pope incited a prosecution against him in the House of Lords 
for breach of privilege, and attended himself to stimulate the 
resentment of his friends. Curll appeared at the bar, and, 
knowing himself in no great danger, spoke of Pope with very 
little reverence. Jle has, said Curll, a knack at versifying, hut 
in prose I think myself a match for him. When the orders oi 
the House were examined, none of them appeared to have 
been infringed ; Curll went away triumphant, and Pope was 
left to seek some other remedy. 

Curll's account was, that one evening a man in a clergyman's 
gown, but with a lawyer's band, brought and offered to sale a 
number of printed volumes, which he found to be Pope's 
epistolary correspondence ; that he asked no name, and was 
told none, but gave the price demanded, and thought himself 
authorised to use his purchase to his own advantage. 

376 POPE. [1688^ 

That Curll gave a true account of the transaction, it is 
reasonable to believe, because no falsehood was ever detected ; 
and when some yeai's afterwards I mentioned it to Lintot, the 
son of Bernard, he declared his opinion to be, that Pope knew 
better than any body else how Gurll obtained the copies, 
because another parcel was at the same time sent to himself, 
for which no price had ever been demanded, as he made 
known his resolution not to pay a porter, and consequently 
not to deal with a nameless agent. 

Such care had been taken to make them publick, that they 
were sent at once to two booksellers ; to Curll, who was 
likely to seize them as a prey, and to Lintot, who might be 
expected to give Pope information of the seeming injury. 
Lintot, I believe, did nothing; and Curll did what was 
expected. That to make them publick was the only purpose 
may be reasonably supposed, because the numbers offered to 
sale by the private messengers shewed that hope of gain could 
not have been the motive of the impression. 

It seems that Pope, being desirous of printing his Letters, 
and not knowing how to do, without imputation of vanity, 
what has in this country been done very rarely, contrived an 
appearance of compulsion ; that when he could complain that 
his Letters were surreptitiously published, he might decently and 
defensively publish them himself. 

Pope's private correspondence, thus promulgated, filled the 
nation with praises of his candour, tenderness, and benevolence, 
the purity of his purposes, and the fidelity of his friendship. 
There were some Letters which a very good or a very wise man 
would wish suppressed ; but, as they had been already exposed, 
it was impracticable now to retract them. 

From the perusal of those Letters, Mr. Allen first conceived 
the desire of knowing him ; and with so much zeal did he 
cultivate the friendship which he had newly formed, that when 
Pope told his purpose of vindicating his own property by a 
genuine edition, he offered to pay the cost. 

1744] POPE. 377 

This however Pope did not accept ; but in time solicited a 
subscription for a Quarto volume, which appeared (1737) I 
believe, with sufficient profit. In the Preface he tells that his 
Letters were deposited in a friend's library, said to be the Earl 
of Oxford's, and that the copy thence stolen was sent to the 
press. The story was doubtless received with different de- 
grees of credit. It may be suspected that the Preface to the ' 
Miscellanies was written to prepare the publick for such an 
incident; and to strengthen this opinion, James Worsdale, a 
painter, who was employed in clandestine negotiations, but 
whose veracity was very doubtful, declared that he was the 
messenger who carried, by Pope's direction, the books to 

When they were thus published and avowed, as they had 
relation to recent facts and persons either then living or not yet 
forgotten, they may be supposed to have found readers ; but as 
the facts were minute, and the characters being either private 
or literary, were little known, or little regarded, they awakened 
no popular kindness or resentment: the book never became 
much the subject of conversation ; some read it as contemporary 
history, and some perhaps as a model of epistolary language ; 
but those who read it did not talk of it. Not much therefore 
was added by it to fame or envy; nor do I remember that 
it produced either publick praise, or publick censure. 

It had however, in some degree, the recommendation of 
novelty. Our language has few Letters, except those of states- 
men. I jpwe l, indeed, about a century ago, published his 
Letters, which are commended by Morhoff, and which alone of 
his hundred volumes continue his memory. Loveda/s Letters 
were printed only once ; . those of Herbert and Suckling are 
hardly known. Mrs. Phillip's [Orinda's] are equally neglected ; 
and those of Walsh seem written as exercises, and were never 
sent to any living mistress or friend. Pope's epistolary 
excellence had an open field ; he had no EngHsh rival, living 
or dead. , 

378 POPE. [j688— 

Pope is seen in this collection as connected with the other 
contemporary wits, and certainly suffers no disgrace in the com- 
parison ; but it must be remembered, that he had the power of 
favouring himself: he might have originally had publication in his 
mind, and have written with care, or have afterwards selected 
those which he had most happily conceived, or most diligently 
laboured ; and I know not whether there does not appear 
something more studied and artificial in his productions 
than the rest, except one long Letter by Bolingbroke, composed 
with all the skill and industry of a professed author. It is 
iiideed not easy to distinguish affectation from habit ; he that 
has once studiously formed a style, rarely writes afterwards 
with complete ease. Pope may be said to write always with 
his reputation in his head; Swift perhaps like a man who 
remembered that he was writing to Pope ; but Arbuthnot like 
one who lets thoughts drop from his pen as they rise into his 

Before these Letters appeared, he published the first part 
of what he persuaded himself to think a system of Ethicks, 
Under the title of an Essay on Man ; which, if his Letter to 
Swift (of Sept. 14, 1725) be rightly explained by the com- 
mentator, had been eight years- under his consideration, and of 
which he seems to have desired the success with great solicitude. 
He had now many open and doubtless many secret enemies. 
The Dunces were yet smarting with the war; and the supe- 
riority which he publickly arrogated, disposed the world to wish 
his humiliation. 

All this he knew, and against all this he provided. His own 
name, and that of his friend to whom the work is inscribed, 
were in the first editions carefully suppressed ; and the poem, 
being of a new kind, was ascribed to one or another, as favour 
determined, or conjecture wandered; it was given, says War- 
burton, to every man, except him only who could write it. 
Those who like only when they like the author, and who are 
under the dominion of a name, condemned it; and those 

1744] . POPE. 379 

admired it who are willing to scatter praise at random^ which 
while it is unappropriated excites no envy. Those friends of 
Pope, that were trusted with the secret, went about lavishing 
honours on the new-bom poet, and hinting that Pope was never 
so much in danger from any former rival. 

To those authors whom he had personally offended, and to 
those whose opinion the world considered as decisive, and 
whom he suspected of envy or malevolence, he sent his essay 
as a present before publication, that they might defeat their 
own enmity by praises, which they could not afterwards decently 

With these precautions, in 1733 was published the first part 
of the Essay on Man. There had been for some time a report 
that Pope was busy upon a System of Morality; but this design 
was not discovered in the new poem, which had a form and a 
title with which its readers were unacquainted. Its reception 
was not uniform ; some thought it a very imperfect piece, 
though not without good lines. While the author was unknown, 
some, as will always happen, favoured him as an adventurer, 
and some censured him as an intruder ; but all thought him 
above neglect ; the sale increased, and editions were multiplied. 

The subsequent editions of the first Epistle exhibited two 
memorable corrections. At first, the poet and his friend 

Expatiate freely o'er this scene of man, 
A mighty maze of walks without a plan. 

For which he wrote afterwards, 

A mighty maze, but not without a plan : 

for, if there were no plan, it was in vain to describe or to trace 
the maze. 

The other alteration was of these lines : 

And spite of pride, and in thy reason's spite. 
One truth is clear, whatever is, is right : 

38o POPE. [1688— 

but having afterwards discovered, or been shewn, that the 
truth which subsisted in spite of reason could not be very clear, 
he substituted 

And spite of pride, in erring reason's spite. 

To such oversights will the most vigorous mind be liable when 
it is employed at once upon argument and poetrj-. 

The second and third Epistles were published ; and Pope 
was, I believe, more and more suspected of writing them ; at 
last, in 1734, he avowed the fourth, and claimed the honour of 
a moral poet. 

In the conclusion it is sufficiently acknowledged, that the 
doctrine of the Essay on Man was received from Bolingbroke, 
who is said to have ridiculed Pope, among those who enjoyed 
his confidence, as having adopted and advanced principles of 
which he did not perceive the consequence, and as blindly 
propagating opinions contrary to his own. That those com- 
munications had been consolidated into a scheme regularly 
drawn, and delivered to Pope, from whom it returned only 
transformed from prose to verse, has been reported, but hardly 
can be true. The Essay plainly appears the fabrick of a 
poet : what Bolingbroke supplied could be only the first prin- 
ciples ; the order, illustration, and embellishments must all be 

These principles it is not my business to clear from obscurity, 
dogmatism, or falsehood; but they were not immediately 
examined; philosophy and poetry have not often the same 
readers; and the Essay abounded in splendid amplifications 
and sparkling sentences, which were read and admired, with no 
great attention to their ultimate purpose ; its flowers caught 
the eye, which did not see what the gay foliage concealed, 
and for a time flourished in the sunshine of universal appro- 
bation. So little was any evil tendency discovered, that, as 
innocence is unsuspicious, many read it or a manual of piety. 
(^1 Its reputation soon invited a translator. It was first turned 

1744] POPE. 381 

into French prose, and afterwards by Resnel into verse. 
Both translations fell into the hands of Crousaz^ who first, 
when he had the version in prose, wrote a general censure, and 
afterwards reprinted Resnel's version, with particular remarks 
upon every paragraph. 

Crousaz was a professor of Switzerland, eminent for his 
treatise of Logick, and his Examen de Pyrrhonisme, and, 
however little known or regarded here, was no mean anta- 
gonist. His mind was one of those in which philosophy and 
piety are happily united. He was accustomed to argument 
and disquisition, and perhaps was grown too desirous of detect- 
ing faults ; but his intentions were always right, his opinions 
were solid, and his religion pure. 

His incessant vigilance for the promotion of piety disposed 
him to look with distrust upon all metaphysical systems of 
Theology, and all schemes of virtue and happiness purely 
rational; and therefore it was not long before he was per- 
suaded that the positions of Pope, as they terminated for the 
most part in natural religion, were intended to draw mankind 
away from revelation, and to represent the whole course of 
things as a necessary concatenation of indissoluble fatality ; 
and it is undeniable, that in many passages a religious eye may 
easily discover expressions not very favourable to morals, or to 

About this time Warburton began to make his appearance 
in the first ranks of learning. He was a man of vigorous 
faculties, a mind fervid and vehement, supplied by incessant 
and unlimited enquiry, with wonderful extent and variety of 
knowledge, which yet had not impressed his imagination, 
nor clouded his perspicacity. To every work he brought a 
memory full fraught, together with a fancy fertile of original 
combinations, and at once exerted the powers of the scholar, 
thejeasoner, and the wit. But his knowledge was too multi- 
farious to be always exact, and his pursuits were too eager 
to be always cautious. His abilities gave him an haughty 

382 POPE. [1688— 

confidence, which he disdained to conceal or mollify ; and his 
impatience of opposition disposed him to treat his adversaries 
with such contemptuous superiority as made his readers com- 
monly his enemies, and excited against the advocate the wishes 
of some who favoured the cause. He seems to have adopted 
the Roman Emperor's determination, oderint dum metuant ; 
he used no allurements of gentle language, but wished to 
compel rather than persuade. 

His style is copious without selection, and forcible without 
neatness ; he took the words that presented themselves : 
his diction is coarse and impure, and his sentences are 

He had, in the early part of his life, pleased himself with 
the notice of inferior wits, and corresponded with the enemies 
of Pope. A Letter was produced, when he had perhaps 
himself forgotten it, in which he tells Concg/nen, "Dryden 
/ observe borrows for want of leisure, and^Vo^e. for want of 
genius : Milton qutof pride, and Addison out of modesty." 
And when Theobald published Shakespeare, in opposition to 
Pope, the best notes were supplied by Warburton. 

But the time was now come when Warburton was to change 
his opinion, and Pope was to find a defender in him who had 
contributed so much to the exaltation of his rival. 

The arrogance of Warburton excited against him every 
artifice of offence, and therefore it may be supposed that his 
union with Pope was censured as hypocritical inconstancy; 
but surely to think differently, at different times, of poetical 
merit, may be easily allowed. Such opinions are often ad- 
mitted, and dismissed, without nice examination. Who is 
there that has not found reason for changing his mind about 
questions of greater importance ? 

Warburton, whatever was his motive, undertook, without 
solicitation, to rescue Pope from the talons of Crousaz, by 
freeing him from the imputation of favouring fatality, or 
rejecting revelation; and from month to month continued 

1744] POPE. 383 

a vindication of the Essay on Man, in the literary journal of 
that time called The Republick of Letters. 

Pope, who probably began to doubt the tendency of his 
own work, was glad that the positions, of which he perceived 
himself not to know the full meaning, could by any mode of 
interpretation be made to mean well. How much he was 
pleased with his gratuitous defender, the following Letter 
evidently shews : 

"March 24, 1743. 
" I have just received from Mr. R. two more of your 
Letters. It is in the greatest hurry imaginable that I write 
this ; but I cannot help thanking you in particular for your 
third Letter, which is so extremely clear, short, and full, that 
I think Mr. Crousaz ought never to have another answer, and 
deserved not so good an one. I can only say, you do him 
too much honour, and me too much right, so odd as the 
expression seems ; for you have made my system as clear as 
I ought to have done and could not. It is indeed the same 
system as mine, but illustrated with a ray of your own, as they 
say our natural body is the same still when it is glorified. I 
am sure I like it better than I did before, and so will every 
man else. I know I meant just what you explain ; but I did 
not explain my own meaning so well as you. You understand 
me as well as I do myself; but you express me better than I 
could express myself. Pray accept the sincerest acknowledge- 
ments. I cannot but wish these Letters were put together in 
one Book, and intend (with your leave) to procure a translation 
of part, at least, of all of them into French ; but I shall not 
proceed a step without your consent and opinion, &c." 

By this fond and eager acceptance of an exculpatory 
comment. Pope testified that, whatever might be the seeming 
or real import of the principles which he had received firom 
Bolingbroke, he had not intentionally attacked religion ; and 

384 POPE. [1688— 

Bolingbroke, if he meant to make him without his own consent 
an instrument of mischief, found him now engaged with his 
eyes open on the side of truth. 

It is known that Bolingbroke concealed from Pope his 
real opinions. He once discovered them to Mr. Hooke, 
who related fhem again to Pope, and was told by him that 
he must have mistaken the meaning of what he heard ; and 
Bolingbroke, when Pope's uneasiness incited him to desire 
an explanation, declared that Hooke had misunderstood him. 

Bolingbroke hated Warburton, who had drawn his pupil 
from him ; and a little before Pope's death they had a 
dispute, from which they parted with mutual aversion. 

From this time Pope lived in the closest intimacy with his 
commentator, and amply rewarded his kindness and his zeal ; 
for he introduced him to Mr. Murray, by whose interest he 
became preacher at Lincoln's Inn, and to Mr. Allen, who 
gave him his niece and his estate, and by consequence a 
bishoprick. When /nej died, he left him the property of his 
works ; a legacy whim may be reasonably estimated at four 
thousand pounds. 

Pope's fondness for the Essay on Man appeared by his 
desire of its propagation. Dobson, who had gained reputa- 
tion by his version of Prior's Solomon, was employed by 
him to translate it into Latin verse, and was for that purpose 
some time at Twickenham ; but he left his work, whatever 
was the reason, unfinished; and, by Benson's invitation, 
undertook the longer task of Paradise Lost. Pope then 
desired his friend to find 9, scholar who should turn his 
Essay into Latin prose; but no such performance has ever 

Pope lived at this time among the great, with that reception 
and respect to which his works entitled him, and which 
he had not impaired by any private misconduct or factious 
partiality. Though Bolingbroke was his friend, Walpole was 
not his enemy ; but treated him with so much consideration 

1744] POPE. i^ 385 

I*- . 
as, at his request, to solicit and obtain from the French 

Mitiister an abbey for Mr. . Southco t, whom he considered -p 't, 

himself as obliged to reWard, by this exertion of his interest, /^"" ^ 

for the benefit which he had received from his attendance 

in a long illness, ay) it ^-' -\ 

It was said, that, when the Court was at Richmond, Queen 
Caroline had declared her intention to visit him. This may 
have been only a careless effusion, thought on no more : the 
report of such notice, however, was soon in many mouths ; 
and, if I do not forget or misapprehend Savage's account, 
Pope, pretending to decline what was not yet offered, left 
his house for a time, not, I suppose, for any other reason 
than lest he should be thought to stay at home in expectation 
of an honour which would not be conferred. He was there- 
fore angry at Swift, who represents him as refusing the visits of 
a Queen, because he knew that what had never been oiTered 
had never been refused. 

Beside the general system of morality supposed to be 
contained in the Essay on Man, it was his intention to write 
distinct poems upon the different duties or conditions of life ; 
one of which is the Epistle to Lord Bathurst (1733) on the- 
Use of Riches, a piece on which he declared great labour to 
have been bestowed.' 

Into this poem some incidents are historically thrown, and 
some known characters are introduced, with others of which 
it is difficult to say how far they are real or fictitious; but 
the praise of Kyrl, the Man of Ross, deserves particular 
examination, who, after a long and pompous enumeration of 
his publick works and private charities, is said to halve diffused 
all those blessings from five hundred a year. Wonders are 
willingly told, and willingly heard. The truth is, that Kyrl 
was a man of known integrity, . and active benevolence, by 
whose solicitation the wealthy were persuaded to pay con- 
tributions to his charitable schemes ; this influence he obtained 

' Spence. 

C C 

386 POPE. [i6SS— 

by an example of liberality exerted to the utmost extent of 
his power, and was thus enabled to give more than he had. 
This account Mr. Victor received from the minister of the 
place, and I have preserved it, that the praise of a good man 
being made more credible, may be more solid. Narrations 
of romantick and impracticable virtue will be read with 
wonder, but that which is unattainable is recommended in 
vain ; that good may be endeavoured, it must be shewn to 
be possible. 

This is the only piece in which the author has given a 
hint of his religion, by ridiculing the ceremony of burning 
the pope, and by mentioning with some indignation the 
inscription on the Monument. 

When this poem was first published, the dialogue, having 
no letters of direction, was perplexed and obscure. Pope 
seems to have written with no very distinct idea ; for he calls 
that an Epistle to Bathurst, in which Bathurst is introduced 
as speaking. 

He afterwards (1734) inscribed to Lord Cobham his Cha- 
racters of Men, written with close attention to the operations 
of the mind and modiiications of life. In this poem he has 
endeavoured to establish and exemplify his favourite theory 
of the Ruling Passion, by which he means an original direction 
of desire to some particular object, an innate affection which 
gives all action a determinate and invariable tendency, and 
operates upon the whole system of life, either openly, or more 
secretly by the intervention of some accidental or subordinate 

Of any passion, thus innate and irresistible, the existence 
may reasonably be doubted. Human characters are by no 
means constant ; men change by change of place, of fortune, 
of acquaintance ; he who is at one time a lover of pleasure, 
is at another a lover of money. Those indeed who attain 
any excellence, commonly spend life in one pursuit; for 
excellence is not often gained upon easier terms. But to the 

1744] POPE. 387 

particular species of excellence men are directed, not by an 
ascendant planet or predominating humour, but by the first 
book which they read, some early conversation which they 
heard, or some accident which excited ardour and emulation. 

It must be at least allowed that this ruling Passion, antecedent 
to reason and observation, must have an object independent on 
human' contrivance ; for there can be no natural desire of 
artificial good. No man therefore can be bom, in the strict 
acceptation, a lover of money; for he may be born where 
money does not exist ; nor can he be born, in a moral sense, a 
lover of his country ; for society, politically regulated, is a 
state contradistinguished from a state of nature ; and any 
attention to that coalition of interests which makes the 
happiness of a country, is possible only to those whom enquiry 
and reflection have enabled to comprehend it. 

This doctrine is in itself pernicious as well as false : its 
tendency is to produce the belief of a kind of moral pre- 
destination, or overruling principle which cannot be resisted; 
he that admits it, is prepared to comply with every desire that 
caprice or opportunity shall excite, and to flatter himself that 
he submits only to the lawful dominion of Nature, in obeying 
the resistless authority of his ruling Passion. 

Pope has formed his theory with so little skill, that, in the 
examples by which he illustrates and confirms it, he has con- 
founded passions, appetites, and habits. 

To the Characters of Men he added soon after, in an Epistle 
supposed to have been addressed to Martha Blount, but which 
the last edition has taken from her, the Characters of Women. 
This poem, which was laboured with great diligence, and in the 
author's opinion with great success, was neglected at its first 
publication, as the commentator supposes, because the publick 
was informed by an advertisement, that it contained no 
character drawn from the Life ; an assertion which Pope 
propably did not expect or wish to have been believed, and 
which he soon gave his readers sufficient reason to distrust, by 

c c 2 

388 POPE, [i6S8— 

telling them in a note, that the work Was imperfect, because 
part of his subject was Vice too high to be yet exposed. 
The time however soon came, in which it was safe to display 

^o^otvthe Dutc hegs of Mar lfaprough under the name of Atossa ; and 

'' her character was inserted with no great honour to the writer's 

Jt gratitude. 

■" He published from time to time (between 1730 and 1740) 

Imitations of different poems of Horace, generally with his 
name, and once as was suspected without it. What he was 
upon moral principles ashamed to own, he ought to have 
suppressed. Of these pieces it is useless to settle the dates, as 
they had seldom much relation to the times, and perhaps had 
been long in his hands. 

This mode of imitation, in which the ancients are fami- 
liarised, by adapting their sentiments to modern topicks, by 
making Horace say of Shakspeare what he originally said of 
Ennius, and accommodating his satires on , Pantolabus and 
Nomentanus to the flatterers and prodigals of our own time, 
was first practised in the reign of Charles the Second by Oldham 
and Rochester, at least I remember no instances more ancient. 
It is a kind of middle composition between translation and 
original design, which pleases when the thoughts are unex- 
pectedly applicable, and the parallels lucky. It seems to have 
been Pope's favourite amusement ; for he has carried it further 
than any former poet. 

He published likewise a revival, in smoother numbers, of 
Dr. Donne's Satires, which was recommended to him by the 
Duke of Shrewsbury and the Earl of Oxford. They made no 
great impression on the publick. Pope seems to have known 
their imbecility, and therefore suppressed them while he was 
yet contending to rise in reputation, but ventured them when 
he thought their deficiencies more likely to be imputed to 
Donne than to himself. 

The Episde to Dr. Arbuthnot, which seems to be derived in 
its first design from Boileau's Address i son Esprit, was 

1744] POPE. 389 

published in January 1735, about a month before the death of 
him to whom it is inscribed. It is to be regretted that either 
honour or pleasure should have been missed by Arbuthnot ; a 
man estimable for his learning, amiable for his life, and 
venerable for his piety. ' 

Arbuthnot was a man of great comprehension, skilful in his 
profession, versed in the sciences, acquainted with ancient ! 
literature, and able to animate his mass of knowledge by a 
bright and active imagination ; a scholar with great brilliancy 
of wit ; a wit, who in the crowd of life, retained and discovered 
a noble ardour of religious zeal. 

■■ In this poem Pope seems to reckon with the publick. He 
vindicates himself from censures ; and with dignity, rather 
than arrogance, enforces his own claims to kindness and 

Into this poem are interwoven several paragraphs which had 
been before printed as a fragment, and among them the 
satirical lines upon Addison, of which the [last couplet has 
been twice corrected. It was at first, 

Who would not smile if such a man there be ? 
Who would not laugh if Addison were he ? 


Who would not grieve if such a man there be ? 
Who would not laugh if Addison were he ? 

At last it is, , I r '*^ 


Who but must laugh if such a man there be ? 1 ^ ' 

, Who would not weep if Atticus were he ? ^ •' ,■■, J .'^'' ' ' 

' He. was at this time at open war with Lord Hervey, who had 
distinguished himself as a steady adherent to the Ministry; 
,and, being offended with a contemptuous answer to one of his 
pamphlets, had summoned P ulteii gy to a duel. Whether he 
or Pope made the first attack/ perhaps cannot now be easily 


390 POPE. [1688— 

known : he had written an invective against Pope, whom he 
calls, Hard as thy heart, and as thy birth obscure ; and hints 
that his father was a hatter. To this Pope wrote a reply in 
verse and prose : the verses are in this poem ; and the prose, 
though it was never sent, is printed among his Letters, but to a 
cool reader of the present time exhibits nothing but tedious 

His last Satires, of the general kind, were two Dialogues, 
named from the year jin which they were published. Seventeen 
Hundred and Thirty-eight. In these poems many are praised 
and many are reproached. Pope was then entangled in the 
Opposition ; a follower of the Prince_of_Wales, who dined at 
his house, and the friend of many who obstrjicted and censured 
the conduct of the Ministers. His political partiality was 
too plainly shewn ; he forgot the prudence with which he 
passed', in his earlier years, uninjured and unoffending through 
much more violent conflicts of faction. 

In the first Dialogue, having an opportunity of praising 
Allen of Bath, he asked his leave to mention him as a man 
not illustrious by any merit of his ancestors, and called him 
in his verses low-born Allen. Men are seldom satisfied with 
praise introduced or followed by any mention of defect. 
Allen seems not to have taken any pleasure in his epithet 
which was afterwards softened into httmble Allen. 

In the second Dialogue he took some hberty with one of 
the Foxes, among others \ which Fox, in a reply to Lyttelton, 
took an opportunity of repaying, by reproaching him with the 
friendship of a lampooner, who scattered his ink without fear 
or decency, and against whom he hoped the resentment of the 
Legislature would quickly be discharged. 

About this time Paul Whitehead, a small poet, was sum- 
moned before the Lords for a poem called Manners, together 
with Dodsley his publisher. Whitehead, who hung loose upon 
society, sculked and escaped; but Dodsley' s shop and family 
made his appearance necessary. He was, however, soon 

1744] POPE. 391 

dismissed ; and the whole process was probably intended 
rather to intimidate Pope than to punish Whitehead. 

Pope never afterwards attempted to join the patriot with tlie 
poet, nor drew his pen upon statesmen. That he -desisted 
from his attempts of reformation is imputed, by his com- 
mentator, to his despair of prevailing over the corruption 
of the time. He was not Ijkely to have been ever of opinion 
that the dread of his satire would countervail the love of 
power or of money ; he pleased himself with being important 
and formidable, and gratified sometimes his pride, and some- 
times his resentment ; till at last he began to think he should 
be more safe, if he were less busy. 

The Memoirs of Scriblerus, published about this time, ^ 
extend only to the first book of a work, projected in concert 
by Pope, Swift, and Arbuthnot, who used to meet in the time 
of Queen Anne, and denominated themselves the Scriblerus 
Club. Their purpose was to censure the abuses of learning 
by a fictitious Life of an Infatuated Scholar. They were 
dispersed ; the design was never completed ; and Waiburton 
laments its miscarriage, as am event very disastrous to polite 

If the whole may be estimated by this specimen, which 
seems to be the production_of_^Arfeithjipt, with a few touches "t 
perhaps by Pope, the want of more will not be much lamented ; 
for the follies which the writer ridicules are so little practised, 
that they are not known ; nor can the satire be understood 
but by the learned : he raises phantoms of absurdity, and then 
drives them away. He cures diseases that were never felt. 

For this reason this joint production of three great writers 
has never obtained any notice from mankind; it has been 
little read, or when read has been forgotten, as no man could 
be wiser, better, or merrier, by remembering it. 

The design cannot boast of much originality ; for, besides 
its general resemblance to Don Quixote, there will be found 
init particular imitations of the History of Mr. Ouflle. "^ 

= { ■/- .^^. >-- 

392 POPE. [1688— 

Swift carried so much of it into Ireland as supplied him 
with hints for his Travels ; and with those the world might have 
been contented, though the rest had been suppressed. 

Pope had sought for images and sentiments in a region not 
known to have been explored by many other of the English 
writers ;',he had consulted the modern writers of Latin poetry, 
a class of authors whom .Boileau endeavoured to bring into 
contempt, and who are too generally neglected. Pope, how- 
ever, was not ashamed of their acquaintance, nor ungrateful 
for the advantages which he might have derived from it. A 
small selection from the Italians who wrote in Latin had been 
published at London, about the latter end of the last century, 
by a man who concealed his name, but whom his Preface 
shews to have been well qualified for his undertaking. This 
collection Pope amplified by more than half, and (1740) 
published it in two volumes, but injuriously omitted his 
predecessor's preface. To these books, which had- nothing 
but the mere text, no regard was paid,, the authors were still 
neglected, and the editor was neither praised nor censured. 

He did not sink into idleness; he had planned a work, which 
he considered as subsequent to his Essay on Man, of which he 
has given this account to Dr. Swift ;• 

"March 25, 1736. 

" If ever I write any more Epistles in verse, one of them 
shall be addressed to you. I have long concerted it, and 
begun it ; but I would make what bears your name as finished 
as my last work ought to be, that is to say, more finished than 
any of the rest. The subject is large, and will divide into four 
Epistles, which naturally follow the Essay on Man^viz. i. Of 
the Extent and Limits of Human Reason and Science. 2. A 
View of the^ Useful and therefore attainable, and of the Un- 
useful and therefore unattainable Arts. 3. Of the Nature, 
Ends, Application, and Use of different Capacities. 4. Of the 
Use of Learning, of the Science, of the World, and of Wit. 

1744] POPE. 393 

It will conclude with a satire against the Misapplication of all 
these, exempliSed by Pictures, Characters, and Examples." 

This work in its full extent, being now afflicted with an 
asthma, and findmg the powers of life gradually declining, 
he had no longer courage to undertake; but, from the materials 
which he had provided, he added, at Warburton's request, 
another book to the Dunciad, of which the design is to 
ridicule such studies as are either hopeless or useless, as 
either pursue what is unattainable, or what, if it be attained, 
is of no use. 

When this book was printed (1742) the laurel had been for 
some time upon the head of Gibber ; a man whom it cannot 
be supposed that Pope could regard with much kindness or 
esteem, though in one of the Imitations of Horace he has 
liberally enough praised the Careless Husband. In the 
Dunciad, among other worthless scribblers, he had mentioned 
Gibber; who, in his Apology, complains of the great poet's 
unkindness as more injurious, because, says he, I never have 
offended him. 

It might have been expected that Pope should have been, 
in some degree, mollified by this submissive gentleness ; but 
no mich consequence appeared. Though he condescended 
to commend Gibber once, he mentioned him afterwards con- 
temptuously in fone of his Satires, and again in his Epistle to 
Arbuthnot; and in the fourth book of the Dunciad attacked 
him with acrimony, to which the provocation is not easily 
discoverable. Perhaps he imagined that, in ridiculing the 
Laureat, he satirised those by whom the laurel had been 
given, and gratified that ambitious petulance with which he 
affected to insult the great. 

The severity of this satire left Gibber no longer any patience. 
He had confidence enough in his own powers to beheve that 
he could disturb the quiet of his adversary, and doubtless did 
not want insigators, who, without any care about the victory, 


-" ^</ 

394 POPE. [1688— 

desired to amuse themselves by looking on the contest. He 
therefore gave the tovm a pamphlet, in which he declares his 
resolution from that time never to bear another blow without 
returning it, and to tire out his adversary by perseverance, if 
he cannot conquer him by strength. 

The incessant and unappeasable malignity of Pope he imputes 
to a very distant cause. After the Three_Ho urs after^ arriage 
had been driven off the stage, by the offence which the mummy 
.and crocodile gave the audience, while the exploded scene was 
' " ^et fresh in memory, it happened that Gibber played Bayes in 
' ^ the Rehearsal ; and, as it had been usual to enliven the part by. 
the mention of any recent theatrical transactions, he said, that 
he once thought to have introduced his lovers disguised in a 
Mummy and a Crocodile. "This," says he, "was received 
with loud claps, which indicated contempt of the play." 
Pope, who was behind the scenes, meeting him as he left the 
stage, attacked him, as he says, with all the virulence of a wit 
out of his senses ; to which he replied, "that he would take no 
other notice of what was said by so particular a man than to 
declare, that, as often as he played that part, he would repeat 
the same provocation." 

He shews his opinion , to be, that Pope was one of the 
,^^ a^thorsof^the play which he so zealously defended ; and adds 
an idle story of Pope's behaviour at a tavern. 

The pamphlet was written with little power of thought or 
language, and, if [suffered to remain without notice, would have 
been very soon forgotten. Pope had now been enough ac- 
quainted with human life to know, if his passion had not been 
too powerful for his understanding, that, from a contention like 
his with Gibber, the world seeks nothing but diversion, which 
is given at the expense of the higher character. When Gibber 
lampooned Pope, curiosity was excited ; what Pope would say 
of Gibber nobody enquired, but in hope that Pope's asperity 
might betray his pain and lessen his dignity. 

He should therefore have suffered the pamphlet to flutter 

1744]. POPE. 395 

and die, without confessing that it stung him. The dishonour 
of being shewn as Gibber's antagonist could never be com- 
pensated by the victory. Gibber had nothing to lose ; when 
Pope had exhausted all his malignity upon him, he would rise 
in the esteem both of his friends and his enemies. Silence 
only could have made him despicable ; the blow which did not 
appear to be felt would have been struck in vain. 

But Pope's irascibility prevailed, and he resolved to tell the 
whole English world that he was at war with Gibber ; and to 
shew that he thought him no common adversary, he prepared 
, no common vengeance ; he published a ne w edit ion of the 
Duncjad, in which he degraded Theobald from his painful 
pre-eminence, and enthroned Gibber in his stead. Unhappily 
the two heroes were of opposite characters, and Pope was 
unwilling to lose what he had already written ; he has therefore 
depraved his poem by giving to Gibber the old books, the cold 
pedantry and sluggish pertinacity of Theobald. 

Pope was ignorant enough of his own interest to make another 
change, and introduced Osborne contending for the prize 
among the booksellers. Osborne was a man intirely destitute 
of shame, without sense of any disgrace but that of poverty. 
He told me, when he was doing that which raised Pope's 
resentment, that he should be put into the Dunciad ; but he 
had the fate of Gassandra ; I gave no credit to his prediction, 
till in time I saw it accomplished. The shafts of satire were 
directed equally in vain against Gibber and Osborne ; being re- 
pelled by the impenetrable impudence of the one, and deadened 
by the impassive dulness of the other. Pope confessed his 
own pain by his anger ; but he gave no pain to those who had 
provoked him. He was able to hurt none but himself; by 
transferring the same ridicule from one to another, he destroyed 
its efficacy ; for, by shewing that what he had said of one he 
was ready to say of another, he reduced himself to the 
insignificance of his own magpye, who firom his cage calls 
cuckold at a venture. 

396 POPE. [i6S8— 

Gibber, according to his engagement, repaid the Dunciad 
with another pamphlet, which, Pope said, would be as good as a 
dose of hartshorn to him ; but his tongue and his heart were at 
variance. I have heard Mr. Richardson relate, that he attended 
his father the painter on a visit, when one of Gibber's pamphlets 
came into the hands of Pope, who said. These things are my 
diversion. They sat by him while he perused it, and saw his 
features writhen with anguish ; and young Richardson said to 
his father, when they returned, that he hoped to be preserved 
from such diversion as had been that day the lot of Pope. 

From this time, finding his diseases more oppressive, and his 
vital powers gradually declining, he no longer strained his 
faculties with any original composition, nor proposed any 
other employment for his remaining life than the revisal and 
correction of his former works ; in which he received advice 
and assistance from Warburton, whom he appears to have 
trusted and honoured in the highest degree. 

He laid aside his Epick Poem, perhaps without much loss to 

mankind ; for his hero was Brutus the Trojan, who, according 

to a ridiculous fiction, established a colony in Britain. The 

subject therefore was of the fabulous age ; the actors were a 

"raceupon^whom imagination had been exhausted, and attention 

wearied, and to whom the mind will not easily be recalled, 

when it is invited in blank verse, which Pope had adopted with 

great imprudence, and I think, without due consideration of 

, the nature of our language. The sketch is, at least in part, 

f/^ ^ ' preserved by Ruffhead ; by which it appears, that Pope was 

/^ - thoughtless enough to model the names of his heroes with 

! ^' • terminations not consistent with the time or country in which 

''" 'l' ' be places them. 

" '■• He lingered through the next year ; but perceived himself, 

J c_, as he expresses it, going down the hill. He had for at least five 

years been afflicted with an asthma, and other disorders, which 

''' his physicians were unable to relieve. Towards the end of his 

' " life he consulted Dr. Thomson, a man who had, by large 





1744] POPE. 397 

promises, and free censures of the common practice of physick, 
forced himself up into sudden reputation. Thomson declared 
his distemper to be a dropsy, and evacuated part of the water 
by tincture of jalap; but confessed that his belly did not 
subside. Thomson had many enemieSj and Pope was per- 
suaded to dismiss him. 

While he was yet capable of amusement and conversation, 
as he was one day sitting in the air with Lord Bolingbroke and 
Lord Marchmont, he saw his favourite Martha Blount at the 
bottom of the terrace, and asked Lord Bolingbroke to go and 
hand her up. Bolingbroke, not liking his errand, crossed his 
legs, and sat still ; but Lord Marchmont, who was younger and 
less captious, waited on the Lady ; who, when he came to her, 
asked, What, is he not dead yet i She is said to have neglected 
him, with shameful unkindness, in the latter time of his decay ; 
yet, of the little which he had to leave, she had a very great 
part. Tlieir acquaintance began early ; the life of each was 
pictured on the other's mind ; their conversation therefore was 
endearing, for when they met, there was an immediate coalition 
o f congeniaL notions. Perhaps he considered her unwillingness 
to approach the chamber of sickness as female weakness, or 
human frailty ; perhaps he was conscious to himself of peevish- 
ness' and impatience, or, though he was offended by her 
inattention, might yet consider her merit as overbalancing her 
fault ; and, if he had suffered his heart to be alienated from 
her, he could have found nothing that might fill her place ; he 
could have only shrunk within himself; it was too late to 
transfer his confidence or fondness. 

In May 1744, his death was approaching;' on the sixth, he 
was all day delirious, which he mentioned four days afterwards 
as a sufficient humiliation of the vanity of man ; he afterwards 
complained of seeing things as through a curtain, and in false 
colours; and one day, in the presence of Dodsley, asked what 

1 Spence. |;-ir,iiv\, f l^-i ^ 

398 POPE. [I ess- 

arm it was that came out from the wall. He said that his 
greatest inconvenience was inability to think. 

Bolingbroke sometimes wept over him in this state ot 
helpless decay; and being told by Spence, that Pope, at 
the intermission of his deliriousness, was always saying some- 
thing kind either of' his present or absent friends, and that 
his humanity seemed to have survived his understanding, 
answered, // has so. And added, / 7iever in my life knew 
a man that had so tender a heart for his particular friends, 
or more general friendship for mankind. At another time he 
said, / have known Pope these thirty years, and value myself 
more in his friendship than — -his grief then suppressed his 

Pope expressed undoubted confidence of a future state. 
Being asked by his friend Mr. Hooke, a papist, whether he 
would nor die like his father and mother, and whether a 
priest should' not be called, he answered, / do not think it 
essential, but 1.1 will be very right; and I thank you for putting 
me in mind of it. 

In the morning, after the priest had given him the last 
sacraments, he said, " There is nothing that is meritorious 
but virtue and friendship, and indeed friendship itself is only 
a part of virtue." 

He died in the evening of the thirtieth day of May, 1744, 
so placidly, that the attendants did not discern the exact time 
of his expiration. He was buried at Twickenham, near his 
father and mother, where a monument has been erected to 
\r\ ' him by his commentator, the Bis hop of Glouc ester. 
t^: He left the care of his papers to his executors, first to 
Lord Bolingbroke, and if he should not be living to the 
Earl of Marchmont, undoubtedly expecting them to be proud 
of the trust, and eager to extend his fame. But let no man 
dream of influence beyond his life. After a decent time 
Dodsley the bookseller went to solicit preference as the 
publisher, and was told that the parcel had not been yet 

1744] POPE. 399 

inspected ; and whatever was the reason, the world has 
been disappointed of what was reserved for the next age. 

He lost, indeed, the favour of Bolingbroke by a kind 
of posthumous offence. The political pamphlet called The 
Patriot King had been put into his hands that he might 
procure the impression of a very few copies, to be distributed 
according to the author's direction among his friends, and 
Pope assured him that no more had been printed than were 
allowed ; but, soon after his death, the printer brought and 
resigned a complete edition of fifteen hundred copies, which 
Pope had ordered him to print, and to retain in secret. He 
kept, as was observed, his engagement to Pope better than 
Pope had kept it to his friend ; and nothing was known of 
the transaction, till, upon the death of his employer, he 
thought himself obliged to deliver the books to the right 
owner, who, with great indignation, made a fire in his yard, 
and delivered the whole impression to the flames. 

Hitherto nothing had been done which was not naturally 
dictated by resentment of violated faith ; resentment more 
acrimonious, as the violator had been more loved or more 
trusted. But here the anger might have stopped ; the injury 
was private, and there was little danger from the example. 

Bolingbroke, however, was not yet satisfied ; his thirst of 
vengeance excited him to blast the memory of the man over 
whom he had wept in his last struggles; and he employed 
Mallet, another friend of Pope, to tell the tale to the 
publick, with all its aggravations. Warburton, whose heart 
was warm with his legacy, and tender by the recent separation, 
thought it proper for him to interpose; and undertook, not 
indeed to vindicate the action, for breach of trust has always 
something criminal, but to extenuate it by an apology. Having 
advanced what cannot be denied, that moral obliquity is made 
more or less excusable by the motives that produce it, he 
enquires what evil purpose could have induced Pope to break 
his promise. He could not delight his vanity by usurping the 

40O POPE. [1688- 

work, which, though not sold in shops, had been shewn to 
a number more than sufficient to preserve the author's claim ; 
he could not gratify his avarice ; for he could not sell his 
plunder till Bohngbroke was dead ; and even then, if the 
copy was left to another, his fraud would be defeated, and 
if left to himself, would be useless. 

Warburton therefore supposes, with great appearance of 
reason, that the irregularity of his conduct proceeded wholly 
from his zeal for Bolingbroke, who might perhaps have 
destroyed the pamphlet, which Pope thought it his duty 
to preserve, even without its author's approbation. To this 
apology an answer was written in a Letter to the most 
Impudent Man living. 

He brought some reproach upon his own memory by the 
petulant and contemptuous mention made in his will of 
Mr. Allen, and an affected repayment of his benefactions. 
Mrs. Blount, as the known friend and favourite of Pope, 
had been invited to the house of Allen, where she comported 
herself with such indecent arrogance, that she parted from 
Mrs. Allen in a state of irreconcilable dislike, and the door 
was for ever barred against her. This exclusion she resented 
with so much bitterness as to refuse any legacy from Pope, 
unless he left the world with a disavowal of obligation to 
Allen. Having been long under her dominion, now tottering 
in the decline of life, and unable to resist the violence of her 
temper, or, perhaps with the prejudice of a lover, persuaded 
that she had suffered improper treatment, he complied with 
her demand, and polluted his will with female resentment. 
Allen accepted the legacy, which he gave to the Hospital 
at Bath ; observing that Pope was always a bad accomptant, 
and that if to 150/. he had put a cypher more, he had come 
nearer to the truth. 

The person of Pope is well known not to have been 
formed by, the nicest model. He has, in his account of the 

1744] POPE. 401 

Little Club, compared himself to a spider, and by another is 
described as protuberant behind and before. He is said to 
have been beautiful in his infancy ; but he was of a constitution 
originally feeble and weak ; and as bodies of a tender frame 
are easily distorted, his deformity was probably in part the 
effect of his application. His stature was so low, that, to 
bring him to a level with common tables, it was necessary 
to raise his seat. But his face was not displeasing, and his 
eyes were animated and vivid. 

By natural deformity, or accidental distortion, his vital 
functions were so much disordered, that his life was a long 
disease. His most frequent assailant was the headache, which 
he used to relieve by inhaling the steam of coffee, which he 
very frequently required. 

Most of what can be told concerning his petty peculiarities 
was communicated by a female domestick of the Earl of Oxford, 
who knew him perhaps after the middle of life. He was then 
so weak as to stand in perpetual need of female attendance ; 
extremely sensible of cold, so that he wore a kind of fur 
doublet, under a shirt of very coarse warm linen with fine 
sleeves. When he rose, he was invested in boddicg made of 
stiff canvas, being scarce able to hold himself erect till th^ 
were laced, and he then put on a flannel waistcoat. One side 
was contracted. His legs were so slender, that he enlarged 
their bulk with three pairs of stockings, which were drawn on 
and off by the maid ; for he was not able to dress or undress 
himself, and neither went to bed nor rose without help. His 
weakness made it very difficult for him to be clean. 

His hair had fallen almost all away ; and he used to dine 
sometimes with Lord Oxford, privately, in a velvet cap. 
His dress of ceremony was black with a tye-wig, and a, little 

The indulgence and accommodation which his sickness 
required had taught him all the unpleasing and unsocial 
qualities of a valetudinary man. He expected that eveiy 

D D 

402 POPE. [1688— 

thing should give way to his ease or humour, as a child, whose 
parents will not hear her cry, has an unresisted donainion in 
the nursery. 

Cest que P enfant toAjours est homme, 
C'est que I'homme est toAjours enfant. 

When he wanted to sleep he nodded in company ; and once 
slumbered at his own table while the Prince of Wales was 
talking of poetry. 

The reputation which hjs friendship gave, procured him 
many invitations ; but he was a very troublesome inmate. He 
brought no servant, and had so many wants, that a numerous 
attendance was scarcely able to supply them. Wherever he, 
was, he left no room for another, because he exacted the 
attention, and employed the activity of the whole family. 
His errands were so frequent and frivolous, that the footmen 
in time avoided and neglected him ; and the Earl of Oxford 
discharged some of the servants for their resolute refusal of 
his messages. The maids, when they had neglected their 
business, alleged that they had been employed by Mr. Pope. 
One of his constant demands was of coffee in the night, and 
to the woman that waited on him in his chamber he was 
very burthensome ; but he was careful to recompense her want 
of sleep ; and Lord Oxford's servant declared, that in a house 
where her business was to answer his call, she would not ask 
for wages. 

He had another fault, easily incident to those who, suffering 
much pain, think themselves entitled to whatever pleasures they 
can snatch. He was too indulgent to his appetite ; he loved 
meat highly seasoned and of strong taste ; and, at the intervals 
of the table, amused himself with biscuits and dry conserves. 
If he sat down to a variety of dishes, he would oppress his 
stomach with repletion, and though he seemed angry when a 
dram was offered him, did not forbear to drink it. His friends, 
who knew the avenues to his heart, pampered him with 

1744] POPE. 403 

presents of luxury, which he did not suffer to stand neglected. 
The death of great men is not always proportioned to the 
lustre of their lives. Hannibal, says Juvenal, did not perish 
by a javelin or a sword ; the slaughters of Cannse were -^ 
revenged by a ring. The death of Pope was imputed by some 
of his friends to a silver saucepan, in which it was his delight 
to heat potted lampreys. 

That he loved too well to eat, is certain ; but that his 
sensuality shortened his life will not be hastily concluded, 
when it is remembered that a conformation so irregular lasted 
six and fifty years, notwithstanding such pertinacious diligence 
of study and meditation. 

In all his intercourse with mankind, he had great delight 
in artifice, and endeavoured to attain all his purposes by in- 
direct and unsuspected methods. He hardly dratik tea without 
a stratagem. If, at the house of his friends, he wanted any 
accommodation, he was' not willing to ask for it in plain terms, 
but would mention it remotely as something convenient ; though 
when it was procured, he soon made it appear for whose sake 
it had been recommended. Thus he teazed Lord Orrery 
till he obtained a screen. He practised his arts on such 
small occasions, that Lady Bolingbroke used to say, in a 
French phrase, that he played the politician about cabbages and ^-v 
turnips. His unjustifiable impression of the JPatagJ^King, as ^ 
it can be imputed to no particiHar mbti^ must have proceeded 
from his general habit of secrecy and cunning ; he caught an 
opportunity of a sly trick and pleased himself witS the, thought 
of outwitting Bolingbroke. ""^^,. 

In familiar or convivial conversation, it does not appear 
that he excelled. He may be said to have resembled Dryden, 
as being not one that was distinguished by vivacity in company. 
It is remarkable, that, so near his time, so much should be 
known of what he has written, and so little of what he has 
said : traditional memory retains no sallies of raillery, nor 
sentences of observation; nothing either pointed or solid, 

D D 2 

404 POPE. [1688— 

either wise or merry. One apophthegm only stands upon 
record. When an objection raised a,gainst his inscription 
for Shakspeare was defended by the authority of Patrick, he 
replied — horr esco r eferens — that he would allow the publisher 
of a Dictionary to know the meaning of a single woi'd, but not 
of two words put together. 

He was fretful, and easily displeased, and allowed himself 
to be capriciously resentful. He would sometimes leave 
Lord Oxford silently, no one could tell why, and was to 
be courted back by more letters and messages than the 
footmen were willing to carry. The table was indeed in- 
fested by Lady Mary Wortley, who was the friend of Lady 
Oxford, and who, knowing his peevishness, could by no 
intreaties be restrained from contradicting him, till their 
disputes were sharpened to such asperity, that one or the 
other quitted the house. 

He sometimes condescended to be jocular with servants 
or inferiors; but by no merriment, either of others or his 
own, was he ever seen excited to laughter. 

Of his domestick character, frugality was a part eminently 
remarkable. Having determined not to be dependent, he 
determined not to be in want, and therefore wisely and 
magnanimously rejected all temptations to expence unsuit- 
able to his fortune. This general care must be universally 
approved ; but it sometimes appeared in petty artifices of 
parsimony, such as the practice of writing his compositions 
on the back of letters, as may be seen in the remaining copy 
of the Iliad, by whifh perhaps in five years five shillings 
were saved; or in a niggardly reception of his friends, and 
scantiness of entertainment, as, when he had two guests in 
his house, he would set at supper a single pint upon the table ; 
and, having himself taken two small glasses would retire, and 
say, Gentlemen, T leave you to your wine. Yet he tells his 
friends that he has a heart for all, a house for all, and, 
whatever they may think, a fortune for all. 

1744] POPE. 405 

He sometimes, however, made a splendid dinner, and is 
said to have wanted no part of the skill or elegance which 
such performances require. That this magnificence should 
be often displayed, that obstinate prudence with which he 
conducted his affairs would not permit; for his revenue, 
certain and casual, amounted only to about eight hundred 
pounds a year, of which however he declares himself able to 
assign one hundred to charity. 

Of this fortune, which as it arose from publick approbation 
was very honourably obtained, his imagination seems to have 
been too full : it would be hard to find a man, so well entitled 
to notice by his wit, that ever delighted so much in talking 
of his money, [n his Letters, and in his Poems, his garden 
and his grotto, his quincun x and his vines, or some hints 
of his opulence, are always to be found. The great topick 
of his ridicule is poverty ; the crimes with which he reproaches 
his antagonists are their debts, their habitation in the Mjnt, 
and their want of a dinner. He seems to be of an opinion 
not very uncommon in the world, that to want money is to 
want every thing. 

Next to the pleasure of contemplating his possessions, seems 
to be that of enumerating the men of high rank with whom 
he was acquainted, and whose notice he loudly proclaims 
not to have been obtained by any practices of meanness or 
servility ; a boast which was never denied to be true, and to 
which very few poets have ever aspired. Pope never set genius 
to sale ; he never flattered those whom he did not love, or 
praised those whom he did not esteem. Savage however 
remarked, that he began a httle to relax his dignity when 
he wrote a distich for Ats Highnes^s dog. 

His admiration of the Great seems to have increased in 
the advance of life. He passed over peers and statesmen 
to inscribe his Iliad to Congreve, with a magnanimity of 
which the praise had been compleat, had his friend's virtue 
been equal to his wit. Why he was chosen for so great 

4o6 POPE. [i68S— 

an honour, it is not now possible to know; there is no, trace 
in literary history of any particular intimacy between them. 
The name, of Congreve appears in the Letters among those 
of his other friends, but without any observable distinction 
or consequence. 

To his latter works, however, he took care to annex names 
dignified with titles, but was not very happy in his choice ; 
for, except Lord Bathurst, none of his noble friends were 
such as that a good ' man would wish to have his intimacy 
with them known to posterity : he can derive little honour 
from the notice of Cobham, Burlington, or Bolingbroke. 

Of his social qualities, if an estimate be made from his 
Letters, an opinion too favourable cannot easily be formed; 
they exhibit a perpetual and unclouded effulgence of general 
benevolence, and particular fondness. There is nothing but 
liberality, gratitude, constancy, and tenderness. It has been 
so long said as to be commonly believed, that the true 
characters of men may be found in their Letters, and that 
he who writes to his friend lays his heart open before him. 
But the truth is, that such were simple friendships of the 
Golden Age, and are now the friendships only of children. 
Very few can boast of hearts which they dare lay open to 
themselves, and of which, by whatever accident exposed, they 
do not shun a distinct and continued view; and, certainly, 
what we hide from ourselves we do not shew to our friends. 
There is, indeed, no transaction which offers stronger tempta- 
tions to fallacy and sophistication than epistolary intercourse. 
In the eagerness of conversation the first emotions of the mind 
often burst out, before they are considered ; in the tumult ot 
business, interest and passion have their genuine effect ; but 
a friendly Letter is a calm and deliberate performance, in the 
cool of leisure, in the stillness of solitude, and surely no man 
sits down to depreciate by design his own character. 

Friendship has no tendency to secure veracity ; for by whom 
can a man so much wish to be thought better than he is, as 

1744] POPE. 407 

by him whose kindness he desires to gain or keep ? Even in 
writing to the world there is less constraint ; the author is not 
confronted with his reader, and takes his chance of approbation 
among the different dispositions of mankind ; but a Letter is 
addressed to a single mind, of which the prejudices and par- 
tialities are known ; and must therefore please, if not by 
favouring them, by forbearing to oppose them. 

To charge those favourable representations, which men give 
of their own minds, with the guilt of hypocritical falsehood, 
would shew more severity than knowledge. The writer com- 
monly believes himself. Almost every man's thoughts, while 
they are general, are right ; and most hearts are pure, while 
temptation is away. It is easy to awaken generous sentiments 
in privacy ; to despise death when there is no danger ; to glow 
with benevolence when there is nothing to be given. While 
such ideas are formed they are felt, and self-love does not 
suspect the gleam of virtue to be the meteor of fancy. 

If the Letters of Pope are considered merely as compositions, 
they seem to be premeditated and artificial. It is one thing to 
write because there is something which the mind wishes to dis- 
charge, and another, to solicit the imagination because ceremony 
or vanity requires something to be written. Pope confesses his 
early Letters to be vitiated with affectation and ambition: to 
know whether he disentangled himself from these perverters 
of epistolary integrity, his book and his life must be set in 

One of his favourite topicks is contempt of his own poetry. 
For this, if it had been real, he would deserve no commenda- 
tion, and in this he was certainly not sincere; for his high 
value of himself was sufficiently observed, and of what could 
he be proud but of his poetry ? He writes, he says, when 
he has just nothing else to do; yet Swift complains that he was 
never at leisure for conversation, because he had always some 
poetical scheme in his head. It was punctually required that his 
writing-box should be set upon his bed before he rose ;' and 

4o8 POPE. [1688— 

Lord Oxford's domestick related, that, in the dreadful winter 
of Forty, she] was called from her bed by him four times in 
one night, to supply him with paper, lest he should lose a 

He pretends insensibility to censure and criticism, though 
it was observed by all who knew him that every pamphlet 
disturbed his quiet, and that his extreme irritability laid him 
open to perpetual vexation; but he wished to despise his 
criticks, and therefore hoped that he did not despise them. 

As he happened to live in two reigns when the Court paid 
little attention to poetry, he nursed in his mind a foolish 
disesteem of Kings, and proclaims that he never sees Courts. 
Yet a little regard shewn him by the Prince of Wales melted 
his obduracy ; and he had not much to say when he was asked 
by his, Royal Highness, how he could love a Prince while he 
disliked Kings ? 

He very frequently professes contempt of the world, and 
represents himself as looking on mankind, sometimes with gay 
indifference, as on emmets of a hillock, below his serious 
attention ; and sometimes with gloomy indignation, as on 
monsters more worthy of hatred than of pity. These were 
dispositions apparently counterfeited. How could he despise 
those whom he lived by pleasing, and on whose approbation 
his esteem of himself was superstructed ? Why should he 
hate those to whose favour he owed his honour and his ease ? 
Of things that terminate in human life, the world is the proper 
judge ; to despise its sentence, if it were possible, is not just ; 
and if it were just, is not possible. Pope was far enough from 
this unreasonable temper j he was sufficiently a fool to Fame, 
and his fault was that he pretended to neglect it. His levity 
and his sullenness were only in his Letters ; he passed through 
common life, sometimes vexed, and sometimes pleased, with 
the natural emotions of common men. 

His scorn of the Great is repeated too often to be real ; no 
man th inks much of that which he despises ; and as falsehood 

1744] POPE. 409 

is always in danger of inconsistency, he makes it his boast at 
another time that he lives among them. 

It is evident that his own importance dwells often in his 
mind. He is afraid of writing, lest the clerks of the Post-office 
should know his secrets ; he has many enemies ; he considers 
himself as surrounded by universal jealousy ; after many deaths, 
and many dispersions, two or three of us, says he, may still be 
brought together, not to plot, but to divert ourselves, and the world 
too, if it pleases ; and they can live together, and shew what 
friends wits may be, in spite of all the fools in the world. All 
this while it was likely that the clerks did not know his hand ; 
he certainly had no more enemies than a publick character 
like his inevitably excites, and with what degree of friendship 
the wits might live, very few were so much fools as ever to 

Some part of this pretended discontent he learned from 
Swift, and expresses it, I think, most frequently in his corre- 
spondence with him. Swift's resentment was unreasonable, 
but it was sincere ; Pope's was the mere mimickry of his friend, 
a fictitious part which he began to play before it became him. 
When he was only twenty-five years old, he related that a glut 
of study and retirement had thrown him on the world, and that 
there was danger lest a glut of the world should throw him back 
upon study and retirement. To this Swift answered with great 
propriety, that Pope had not yet either acted or suffered enough 
in the world to have become weary of it. And, indeed, it 
must be some very powerful reason that can drive back to 
solitude him who has once enjoyed the pleasures of society. 

In the Letters both of Swift and Pope there appears such 
narrowness of mind, as makes them insensible of any excellence 
that has not some affinity with their own, and confines their 
esteem and approbation to so small a number, that whoever 
should form his opinion of the age from their representation, 
would suppose them to have lived amidst ignorance and bar- 
barity, unable to find among their contemporaries either virtue 

4IO POPE. [less- 

or intelligence, and persecuted by those that could not under- 
stand them. 

When Pope murmurs at the world, when he professes con- 
tempt of fame, when he speaks of riches and poverty, of success 
and disappointment, with negligent indifference, he certainly 
does not express his habitual and settled sentiments, but either 
wilfully disguises his own character, or, what is more likely, 
invests himself with temporary qualities, and sallies out in the 
colours of the present moment. His hopes and fears, his joys 
and sorrows, acted strongly upon his mind ; and if he differed 
from others, it was not by carelessness ; he was irritable and 
resentful ; his malignity to Philips, whom he had first made 
ridiculous, and then hated for being angry,' continued too long. 
Of his vain desire to make Bentley contemptible, I never heard 
any adequate reason. He was sometimes wanton in his attacks ; 
and, before Chandos, Lady Wortley, and Hill, was mean in his 

The virtues which seem to have had most of his affection 
were liberality and fidelity of friendship, in which it does not 
appear that he was other than he describes himself His 
fortune did not suffer his charity to be splendid and conspic- 
uous ; but he assisted Dodsley with a hundred pounds, that he 
might open a shop ; and of the subscription of forty pounds a 
year that he raised for Savage, twenty were paid by himself. 
He was accused of loving money, but his love was eagerness to 
gain, not solicitude to keep it. 

In the duties of friendship he was zealous and constant : his 
early maturity of mind commonly united him with men older 
than himself, and therefore, without attaining any considerable 
length of life, he saw many companions of his youth sink into 
the grave ; but it does not appear that he lost a single friend 
by coldness or by injury ; those who loved him once, con- 
tinued their kindness. His ungrateful mention of Allen in his 
will was the effect of his adherence to one whom he had 
known much longer, and whom he naturally loved with greater 

1744] POPE. 4" 

fondness. His violation of the trust reposed in him by 
Bolingbroke could have no motive inconsistent with the 
warmest affection ; he either thought the action so near to 
indifferent that he forgot it, or so laudable that he expected 
his friend to approve it. 

It was reported, with such confidence as almost to enforce 
behef, that in the papers intrusted to his executors was found 
a defamatory Life of Swift, which he had prepared as an instru- 
ment of vengeance to be used, if any provocation should be 
ever given. About this I enquired of the Earl of Marchmont, 
who assured me that no such piece was among his remains. 

The religion in which he lived and died was that of the 
Church of Rome, to which in his correspondence with Racine 
he professes himself a sincere adherent. That he was not 
scrupulously pious in some part of his life, is known by 
many idle and indecent applications of sentences taken from 
the Scriptures ; a mode of merriment which a good man 
dreads for its profaneness, and a witty man disdains for its 
easiness and vulgarity. But to whatever levities he has been 
betrayed, it does not appear that his principles were ever 
corrupted, or that he ever lost his belief of Revelation. The 
positions which he transmitted from Bolingbroke he seems not 
to have understood, and was pleased with an interpretation that 
made them orthodox. 

A man of such exalted superiority, and so little modera- 
tion, would naturally have all his delinquencies observed and 
aggravated ; those who could not deny that he was excellent, 
would rejoice to find that he was not perfect. 

Perhaps it may be imputed to the unwillingness with which 
the same man is allowed to possess many advantages, that his 
learning has been depreciated. He certainly was in his early 
life a man of great literary curiosity ; and when he wrote his 
Essay on Criticism had, for his age, a very wide acquaintance 
with books. When he entered into the living world, it seems 
to have happened to him as to many others, that he was less 

412 POPE. [1688— 

attentive to dead masters; he studied in the academy of 
Paracelsus, and made the universe his favourite volume. He 
gathered his notions fresh from reality, not from the copies of 
authors, but the originals of Nature. Yet there is no reason 
to believe that literature ever lost his esteem ; he always pro- 
fessed to love reading ; and Dobson, who spent some time at 
his house translating his Essay on Man, when I asked him what 
learning he found him to possess, answered, More than I expected. 
His frequent references to history, his allusions to various kinds 
of knowledge, and his images selected from art and nature, with 
his observations on the operations of the mind and the modes 
of life, shew an intelligence perpetually on the wing, excursive, 
vigorous, and diligent, eager to pursue knowledge, and attentive 
to retain it. 

From this curiosity arose the desire of travelling, to which he 
alludes in his verses to Jervas, and which, though he never found 
an opportunity to gratify it, did not leave him till his life declined. 

Of his intellectual character, the constituent and fundamental 
principle was Good Sense, a prompt and intuitive perception 
of consonance and propriety. He saw immediately, of his own 
conceptions, what was to be chosen, and what to be rejected ; 
and, in the works of others, what was to be shunned, and what 
was to be copied. ^t ^ i i/'^rJi- ' 

But good sense alone is a sedate and quiescent quality, which 
manages its possessions well, but does not increase them ; it 
collects few materials for its own operations, and preserves 
safety, but never gains supremacy. Pope had likewise genius ; 
a mind active, ambitious, and adventurous, always investigat- 
ing, always aspiring ; in its wildest searches still longing to go 
forward, in its highest flights still wishing to be higher ; always 
imagining something greater than it knows, always endeavour- 
ing more than it can do. 

To assist these powers, he is said to have had great strength 
and exactness of memory. That which he had heard or read 
was not easily lost ; and he had before him not only what his 

1744] POPE. 413 

own meditation suggested, but what he had found in other 
writers, that might be accommodated to his present purpose. 

These benefits of nature he improved by incessant' and 
unwearied diligence ; he had recourse to every source of 
intelligence, and lost no opportunity of information ; he 
consulted the living as well as the dead; he read his com- 
positions to his friends, and was never content with mediocrity 
when excellence could be attained. He considered poetry as 
the business of his life, and however he might seem to lament 
his occupation, he followed it with constancy ; to make verses 
was his first labour, and to mend them was his last. 

From his attention to poetry he was never diverted. If 
conversation offered anything that could be improved, he 
committed it to paper ; if a thought, or perhaps an expression 
more happy than was common, rose to his mind, he was 
careful to write it ; an independent distich was preserved 
for an opportunity of insertion, and some little fragments 
have been found containing lines, or parts of lines, to be 
wrought upon at some other time. 

He was one of those few whose labour is their pleasure ; he 
was never elevated to negligence, nor wearied to impatience ; 
he never passed a fault unamended by indifierence, nor 
quitted it by despair. He laboured his works first to gain 
reputation, and afterwards to keep it. 

Of composition there are different methods. Some employ 
at once memory and invention, and, with little intermediate 
use of the pen, form and polish large masses by continued 
meditation, and write their productions only when, in their 
own opinion, they have completed them. It is related of 
Virgil, that his custom was to pour out a great number of 
verses in the morning, and pass the day in retrenching 
exuberances and correcting inaccuracies. The method of 
Pope, as may be collected from his translation, was to write 
his first thoughts in his first words, and gradually to amplify, 
decorate, rectify, and refine them. 

414 POPE. [1688— 

With such faculties, and such dispositions, he excelled every 
other writer \n poetical prudence ; he wrote in such a manner as 
might expose him to few hazards. He used almost always the 
same fabrick of verse ; and, indeed, by those few essays which 
lie made of any other, he did not enlarge his reputation. Of 
this uniformity the certain consequence was readiness and 
dexterity. By perpetual practice, language had in his mind 
a systematical arrangement ; having always the same use for 
words, he had words so selected and combined as to be ready 
at his call. This increase of facility he confessed himself to 
to have perceived in the progress of his translation. 

But what was yet of more importance, his effusions were 
always voluntary, and his subjects chosen by himself. His 
independence secured him from drudging at a task, and 
labouring upon a barren topick : he never exchanged praise 
for money, nor opened a shop of condolence or congratulation. 
His poems, therefore, were scarce ever temporary. He suffered 
coronations and royal marriages to pass without a song, and 
derived no opportunities from recent events, nor any popularity 
from the accidental disposition of his readers. He was never 
reduced to the necessity of soliciting the sun to shine upon a 
birthday, of calling the Graces and Virtues to a wedding, or 
of saying what multitudes Jiave said before him. When he 
could produce nothing new, he was at liberty to be silent. 

His publications were for the same reason never hasty. 
He is said to have sent nothing to the press till it had lain 
two years under his inspection : it is at least certain, that 
he ventured nothing without nice examination. He suffered 
the tumult of imagination to subside, and the novelties of 
invention to grow familiar. He knew that the mind is always 
enamoured of its own productions, and did not trust his first 
fondness. He consulted his friends, and listened with great 
willingness to criticism ; and, what was of more importance, 
he consulted himself, and let nothing pass against his own 

1744] POPE. 415 

He professed to have learned his poetry from Dryden, whom, 
whenever an opportunity was presented, he praised through 
his whole life with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his 
character may receive some illustration, if he be compared 
with his master. 

Integrity of imderstanding and nicety of discernment were 
not allotted in a less proportion to Dryden than to Pope. 
The rectitude of Dryden' s mind was sufficiently shei\Ti by 
the dismission of his poetical prejudices, and the rejection 
of unnatural thoughts and rugged numbers. But Dryden never 
desired to apply all the judgement that he had. He wrote, 
and professed to write, merely for the people; and when 
he pleased others, he contented himself. He spent no time 
in struggles to rouse latent powers ; he never attempted 
to make that better which was already good, nor often to 
mend what he must have known to be faulty. He wrote, 
as he tells us, with very little consideration ; when occasion 
or necessity called upon him, he poured out what the present 
moment happened to supply, and, when once it had passed 
the press, ejected it from his mind; for when he had no 
pecimiary interest, he had no further solicitude. 

Pope was not content to satisfy ; he desfred to excel, and 
therefore always endeavoured to do his best : he did not court 
the candour, but dared the judgement of his reader, and, 
expecting no indulgence from others, he shewed none to 
himself He examined lines and words with minute and 
punctilious observation, and retouched every part with in- 
defatigable diligence, till he had left nothing to be forgiven. 

For this reason he kept his pieces very long in his hands, 
while he considered and reconsidered them. The only yoems 
which can be supposed to have been written with such regard 
to the times as might hasten their publication, were the two 
satires of Tliirty-eight ; of which Dodsley told me, that they 
were brought to him by the author, that they might be fairly 
copied. "Almost every line," he said, "was then written 

4i6 POPE. [1688— 

twice over ; I gave him a clean transcript, which he sent some 
time afterwards to me for the press, with almost every line 
written^twice over a second time." 

His declaration, that his care for his works ceased at their 
pubhcation, was not strictly true. His parental attention never 
abandoned them ; what he found amiss in the first edition, he 
silently corrected in those that followed. He appears to have 
revised the Iliad, and freed it from some of its imperfections ; 
and the Essay on Criticism received many improvements after 
its first appearance. It will seldom be found that he altered 
without adding clearness, elegance, or vigour. Pope had 
perhaps the judgement of Dryden ; but Dryden certainly 
wanted the diligence of Pope. 

In acquired knowledge, the superiority must be allowed to 
Dryden, whose education was more s cholas tick, and who 
before he became an author had been allowed more time 
for study, with better means of information. His mind has 
a larger range, and he collects his images and illustrations 
from a more extensive circumference of science. Dryden 
knew .more of man in his general nature, and Pope in his 
local manners. The notions of Dryden were formed by 
comprehensive speculation, and those of Pope by minute 
attention. There is more dignity in the knowledge of Dryden, 
and more certainty in that of Pope. 

Poetry was not the sole praise of either ; for both excelled 
likewise in prose ; but Pope did not borrow his prose from his 
predecessor. The style of Dryden is capricious and varied, 
that of Pope is cautious and uniform ; Dryden obeys the 
motions of his own mind. Pope constrains his mind 
to his own rules of composition. Dryden is sometimes 
vehement and rapid ; Pope is always smooth, uniform, and 
gentle. Dryden's page is a natural field, rising into in- 
equalities, and diversified by the varied exuberance of abun- 
dant vegetation; Pope's is a velvet lawn, shaven by the scythe, 
and levelled by the roller. 

1744] POPE. 417 

■ Of genius, that power which constitutes a poet ; that quality 
without which judgement is cold and knowledge is inert ; that 
energy which collects, combines, amplifies, and animates ; the 
superiority must, with some hesitation, be allowed to Dryden. 
It is not to be inferred that of this poetical vigour Pope had 
only a little because Dryden had more ; for every other writer 
since Milton must give place to Pope ; and even of Dryden 
it must be said, that if he has brighter paragraphs, he has not 
better poems. Dryden's performances were always hasty, either 
excited by some external occasion, or extorted by domestick 
necessity ; he composed without consideration, and published 
without correction. What his mind could supply at call, 
or gather in one excursion, was all that he sought, and all 
that he gave. The , dilatory caution of Pope enabled him 
to condense his sentiments, to multiply his images, and 
to accumulate all that study might produce, or chance might 
supply. If the flights of Dryden therefore are higher. Pope 
continues longer on the wing. If of Dryden's fire the blaze 
is brighter, of Pope's the heat is more regular and constant. 
Dryden often surpasses expectation, and Pope never falls 
below it. Dryden is read with frequent astonishment, and 
Pope with perpetual delight. 

This parallel will, I hope, when it is well considered, be 
found just ; and if the reader should suspect me, as I suspect 
myself, of some partial fondness for the memory of Dryden, 
let him not too hastily condemn me; for meditation and 
enquiry may, perhaps, shew him the reasonableness of my 

The Works of Pope are now to be distinctly examined, ntrt 
so much with attention to slight faults or petty beauties, as to 
the general character and effect of each performance. 

It seems natural for a young poet to initiate himself by 
Pastorals, which, not professing to imitate real life, require 
no experience, and, exhibiting only the simple operations of 

E E 

4i8 POPE. [1688— 

unmingled passions, admit no subtle reasoning or deep enquiry. 
Pope's Pastorals are not however composed but with close 
thought; they have reference to the times of the day, the 
seasons of the year, and the periods of human life. The last, 
that which turns the attention upon age and death, was the 
author's favourite. To tell of disappointment and misery, to 
thicken the darkness of futurity, and perplex the labyrinth of 
uncertainty, has been always a delicious emplo)rment of the 
poets. His preference was probably just. I wish, however, 
that his fondness had not overlooked a line in which the 
Zephyrs are made to lament in silence. 

To charge these Pastorals with want of invention, is to 
require what never was intended. The imitations are so 
ambitiously frequent, that the writer evidently means rather to 
shew his literature than his wit. It is surely sufficient for an 
author of sixteen not only to be able to copy the poems 
of antiquity with judicious selection, but to have obtained 
sufficient power of language, and skill in metre, to exhibit a 
series of versification, which had in English poetry no prece- 
dent, nor has since had an imitation. 

The design of Windsor Forest is evidently derived from 
Cooper's Hill, with some attention to Waller's poem on The 
Park ; but Pope cannot be denied to excel his masters in 
variety and elegance, and the art of interchanging description, 
narrative, and morality. The- objection made by Dennis is the 
want of plan, of a regular subordination of parts terminating in 
the principal and original design. There is this want in most 
descriptive poems, because as the scenes, which they must 
exhibit successively, are all subsisting at the same time, the 
order in which they are shewn must by necessity be arbitrary, 
and more is not to be expected from the last part than from 
the first. The attention, therefore, which cannot be detained 
by suspense, must be excited by diversity, such as his poem 
offers to its reader. 

But the desire of diversity may be too much indulged ; the 

1744] POPE. 419 

parts of Windsor Forest which deserve least praise are those 
which were added to enHven the stilhiess of the scene, the 
appearance of Father Thames, and the transformation of 
Lodona. Addison had in his Campaign derided the Rivers 
that rise from their oozy beds to tell stories of heroes, and it is 
therefore strange that Pope should adopt a fiction not only- 
unnatural but lately censured; The story of Lodona is told 
with sweetness ; but a new metamorphosis is a ready and 
puerile expedient ; nothing is easier than to tell how a flower 
was once a blooming virgin, or a rock an obdurate tyrant. 

The Temple of Fame has, as Steele warmly declared, a 
thousand beauties. Every part is splendid; there is great 
luxuriance of ornaments ; the original vision of Chaucer was 
never denied to be much improved; the allegory is very 
skilfully continued, the imagery is properly selected, and 
learnedly displayed : yet, with all this comprehension of ex- 
cellence, as its scene is laid in remote ages, and its sentiments, 
if the concluding paragraph be excepted, have little relation 
to general manners or common life, it never obtained much 
notice, but is turned silently over, and seldom quoted or 
mentioned with either praise or blame. 

That the Messiah excels the Pollio is no great praise, if it be 
considered from what original the improvements are derived. 

The Verses on the Unfortunate Lady have drawn much 
attention by the illauciable singularity of treating suicide vidth 
respect ; and they must be allowed to be written in some parts 
with vigorous animation, and in others with gentle tenderness ; 
nor has Pope produced any poem in which the sense pre- 
dominates more over the diction. But the tale is not skilfully 
told ; it is not easy to discover the character of either the 
Lady or her Guardian. History relates that she was about to 
disparage herself by a marriage with an inferior; Pope praises 
her for the dignity of ambition, and yet condemns the uncle to 
detestation for his pride ; the ambitious love of a niece may be 
opposed by the interest, mahce, or envy of an uncle, but never 

E E 2 

420 POPE. [1688— 

by his pride. On such an occasion a poet may be allowed to 
be obscure, but inconsistency never can be right. 

The Ode for St. Cecilia's Day was undertaken at the desire 
of Steele : in this the author is generally confessed to have 
miscarried, yet he has miscarried only as compared with 
Dryden; for he has far outgone other competitors. Dryden's 
plan is better chosen ; history will always take stronger hold of 
the attention than fable : the passions excited by Dryden are 
the pleasures and pains of real life, the scene of Pope is laid 
in imaginary existence ; Pope is read with calm acquiescence, 
Dryden with turbulent delight ; Pope hangs upon the ear, and 
Dryden finds the passes of the mind. 

Both the odes want the essential constituent of metrical 
compositions, the stated recurrence of settled numbers. It 
may be alleged, that Pindar is said by Horace to have written 
numeris lege solutis : but as no such lax performances have been 
transmitted to us, the meaning of that expression cannot be 
fixed ; and perhaps the like return might properly be made to 
a modern Pindarist, as Mr. Cobb received from Bentley, who, 
when he found his criticisms upon a Greek Exercise, which 
Cobb had presented, refuted one after another by Pindar's 
authority, cried out at last, Pindar was a bold fellow, but thou 
art an impudent one. 

If Pope's ode be particularly inspected, it will be found that 
the first stanza consists of sounds well chosen indeed, but only 

The second consists of hyperbolical common-places, easily 
to be found, and perha,ps without much difficulty to be as well 

In the third, however, there are numbers, images, harmony, 
and vigour, not unworthy the antagonist of Dryden. Had all 
been like this — but every part cannot be the best. 

The next stanzas place and detain us in the dark and dismal 
regions of mythology, where neither hope nor fear, neither joy 
nor sorrow can be found : the poet however faithfully attends 

1744] POPE. 421 

us ; we have all that can be performed by elegance of diction, 
or sweetness of versification ; but what can form avail without 
better matter ? 

The last stanza recurs again to common-places. The con- 
clusion is too evidently modelled by that of Dryden ; and it may 
be remarked that both end with the same fault, the comparison 
of each is literal on one side, and metaphorical on the other. 

Poets do not always express their own thoughts ; Pope, with 
all this labour, in the praise of Musick, was ignorant of its 
principles, and insensible of its effects. 

One of his greatest though of his earliest works is the Essay 
on Criticism,, which, if he had written nothing else, would have 
placed him among the first criticks and the first poets, as it ex- 
hibits every mode of excellence that can embellish or dignify 
didactick composition, selection of matter, novelty of arrange* 
ment, justness of precept, splendour of illustration, and propriety 
of digression. I know not whether it be pleasing to consider 
that he produced this piece at twenty, and never afterwards ex- 
celled it ; he that delights himself with observing that such 
powers may be so soon attained, cannot but grieve to think 
that life was ever after at a stand. 

To mention the particular beauties of the Essay would be 
unprofitably tedious ; but I cannot forbear to observe, that the 
comparison of a student's progress in the sciences with the 
journey of a traveller in the Alps, is perhaps the best that 
English poetry can shew. A simile, to be perfect, must both 
illustrate and ennoble the subject ; must shew it to the under- 
standing in a clearer view, and display it to the fancy with 
greater dignity ; but either of these qualities may be sufficient 
to recommend it. In didactick poetry, of which the great 
purpose is instruction, a simile may be praised which illustrates, 
though it does not ennoble ; in heroicks, that may be 
admitted which ennobles, though it does not illustrate. That 
it may be complete, it is required to exhibit, independently 
, of its references, a pleasing image ; for a simile is said to be 

422 POPE. [1688— 

a short episode. To this antiquity was so attentive, that cir- 
cumstances were sometimes added, which, having no parallels, 
served only to fill the imagination, and produced what Perrault 
ludicrously called comparisons with a long tail. In their similes 
the greatest writers have sometimes failed; the ship-race, 
compared with the chariot-race, is neither illustrated nor 
aggrandised ; land and water make all the difference : when 
Apollo, running after Daphne, is likened to a greyhound 
chasing a hare, there is nothing gained ; the ideas of pursuit 
and flight are too plain to be made plainer, and a god and the 
daughter of a god are not represented much to their advantage 
by a hare and dog. The simile of the Alps has no useless 
parts, yet affords a striking picture by itself; it makes the fore- 
going position better understood, and enables it to take faster 
hold on the attention ; it assists the apprehension, and elevates 
the fancy. 

Let me likewise dwell a little on the celebrated paragraph, in 
which it is directed that the sound should seem an echo to the 
sense; a precept which Pope is allowed to have observed 
beyond any other English poet. 

This notion of representative metre, and the desire of dis- 
covering frequent adaptations of the sound to the sense, have 
produced, in my opinion, many wild conceits and imaginary 
beauties. All that can furnish this representation are the sounds 
of the words considered singly, and the time in which they are 
pronounced. Every language has some words framed to exhibit 
the noises which they express, as thump, rattle, growl, hiss. 
These however are but few, and the poet cannot make them 
more, nor can they be of any use but when sound is to be 
mentioned. The time of pronunciation was in the dactylick 
measures of the learned languages capable of considerable 
variety; but that variety could be accommodated only to 
motion or duration, and different degrees of motion were 
perhaps expressed by verses rapid or slow, without much 
attention of the writer, when the image had full possession of 

1744] POPE. 423 

his fancy ; but our language having little flexibility, our verses 
can differ very little in their cadence. The fancied resem- 
blances, I fear, arise sometimes merely from the ambiguity of 
words ; there is supposed to be some relation between a soft 
line and a soft couch, or between hard syllables and hard 

Motion, however, may be in some sort exemplified ; and yet 
it may be suspected that even in such resemblances the mind 
often governs the ear, and the sounds are estimated by their 
meaning. One of the most successful attempts has been to 
describe the labour of Sisyphus : 

With many a weary step, and many a groan. 
Up a high hill he heaves a huge round stone ; 
The huge round stone, resulting with a bound. 
Thunders impetuous down, and smoaks along the ground. 

Who does not perceive the stone to move slowly upward, 
and roll violently back ? But set the same numbers to another 
sense : 

While many a merry tale, and many a song, 
Cheai-'d the rough road, we wish'd the rough road long. 
The rough road then, returning in a round, 
Mock'd our impatient steps, for all was fairy ground. 

We have now surely lost much of the delay, and much of the 

But to shew how little the greatest master of numbers 
can fix the principles of representative harmony, it will be 
sufficient to remark that the poet, who tells us, that 

When Ajax strives — the words move slow. 

Not so when swift Camilla scours the plain. 

Flies o'er th' unbending corn, and skims along the main ; 

when he had enjoyed for about thirty years the praise of 
Camilla's lightness of foot, tried another experiment upon 
sound and time, and produced this memorable triplet : 

424 POPE. [1688— 

Waller was smooth ; but Dryden taught to join ') 
The varying verse, the full resounding line, > 

The long majestick march, and energy divine. ) 

Here are the swiftness of the rapid race, and the march of 
slow-paced majesty, exhibited by the same poet in the same 
sequence of syllables, except that the exact prosodist will find 
the line of swiftness by one time longer than that of 

Beauties of this kind are commonly fancied; and when 
real, are technical and nugatory, not to be rejected, and not 
to be solicited. 

To the praises which have been accumulated on the Rape 
of the Lock by readers of every class, from the critick to the 
waiting-maid, it is difficult to make any addition. Of that 
which is universally allowed to be the most attractive of all 
ludicrous compositions, let it rather be now enquired from what 
sources the power of pleasing is derived. 

Dr. WaAurton, who excelled in critical perspicacity, has 
remarked that the preternatural agents are very happily 
adapted to the purposes of the poem. The heathen deities 
can no longer gain attention : we should have ttimed away 
from a contest between Venus and Diana. The employment 
of allegorical persons always excites conviction of its own 
absurdity ; they may produce effects, but cannot conduct 
actions ; when the phantom is put in motion, it dissolves ; 
thus Discord may raise a mutiny, but Discord cannot conduct 
a march, nor besiege a town. Pope brought into view a 
new race of Beings, with powers and passions proportionate to 
their operation. The sylphs and gnomes act at the toilet and 
the tea-table, what more terrifick and more powerful phantoms 
perform on the stormy ocean, or the field of battle, they give 
their proper help, and do their proper mischief. 

Pope is said, by an objector, not to have been the inventer 
of this petty nation; a charge which might with more justice 
have been brought against the author of the Iliad, who 

1744] POPE. 425 

doubtless adopted the religious system of his country; for 
what is there but the names of his agents which Pope has not 
invented? Has he not assigned them characters and opera- 
tions never heard of before? Has he not, at least, given them 
their first poetical existence? If this is not sufficient to 
denominate his work original, nothing original ever can be 

In this work are exhibited, in a very high degree, the two 
most engaging powers of an author. New things are made 
familiar, and familiar things are made new. A race of aerial 
peopje, never heard of before, is presented to us in a manner 
so clear and easy, that the reader seeks for no further informa- 
tion, but immediately mingles with his new acquaintance, 
adopts their interests, and attends their pursuits, loves a sylph, 
and detests a gnome. 

That familiar things are made new, every paragraph will 
prove. The subject of the poem is an event below the com- 
mon incidents of common life ; nothing real is introduced 
that is not seen so often as to be no longer regarded, yet the 
whole detail of a female-day is here brought before us invested 
with so much art of decoration, that, though nothing is 
disguised, every thing is striking, and we feel all the appetite 
of curiosity for that from which we have a thousand times 
turned fastidiously away. 

' The purpose of the Poet is, as he tells us, to laugh at the 
little unguarded follies of the female sex. ' It is therefore without 
justice that Dennis charges the Rape of the Lock with the 
want of a moral, and for that reason sets it below the Lutrin, 
which exposes the pride and discord of the clergy. Perhaps 
neither Pope nor Boileau has made the world much better than 
he found it ; but if they had both succeeded, it were easy to 
tell who would have deserved most from publick gratitude. 
The freaks, and humours, and spleen, and vanity of women, 
as they embroil families in discord, and fill houses with 
disquiet, do more to obstruct the happiness of life in a year 

426 POPE. [1688— 

than the ambition of the clergy in many centuries. It has 
been well observed, that the misery of man proceeds not from 
any single crush of overwhelming evil, but from small vexations 
continually repeated. 

It is remarked by Dennis likewise, that the machinery is 
superfluous ; that, by all the bustle of preternatural operation, 
the main event is neither hastened nor retarded. To this 
charge an efficacious answer is not easily made. The sylphs 
cannot be said to help or to oppose, and it must be allowed 
to imply some want of art, that their power has not been 
sufficiently intermingled with the action. Other parts may 
likewise be charged with want of connection; the game at 
ombre might be spared ; but if the Lady had lost her hair while 
she was intent upon her cards, it might have been inferred that 
those who are too fond of play will be in danger of neglecting 
more important interests. Those perhaps are faults ; but what 
are such faults to so much excellence ! 

The Epistle of Eloise to Abelard is one of the most happy 
productions of human wit : the subject is so judiciously chosen, 
that it would be difficult, in turning over the annals of the 
world, to find another which so many circumstances concur to 
recommend. We regularly interest ourselves most in the 
fortune of those who most deserve our notice. Abelard 
and Eloise were conspicuous in their days for eminence of 
merit. The heart naturally loves truth. The adventures and 
misfortunes of this illustrious pair are known from undisputed 
history. Their fate does not leave the mind in hopeless 
dejection ; for they both found quiet and consolation in 
retirement and piety. So new and so affecting is their story, 
that it supersedes invention, and imagination ranges at full 
liberty without straggling into scenes of fable. 

The story, thus skilfully adopted, has been diligently im- 
proved. Pope has left nothing behind him, which seems more 
the effect of studious perseverance and laborious revisal. Here 
is particularly observable the curiosa felicitas, a fruitful soil, and 

1744] POPE. 427 

careful cultivation. Here is no crudeness of sense, nor asperity 
of language. 

The sources from which sentiments, which have so much 
vigour and efficacy, have been drawn, are shewn to be the 
mystick writers by the learned author of the Essay on the Life 
and Writings of Pope ; a book which teaches how the brow 
of Criticism may be smoothed, and how she may be enabled, 
with all her severity, to attract and to delight. 

The train of my disquisition has now conducted me to that 
poetical wonder, the translation of the IHad; a performance 
which no age or nation can pretend to equal. To the Greeks 
translation was almost unknown; it was totally unknown to 
the inhabitants of Greece. They had no recourse to the 
Barbarians for poetical beauties, but sought for every thing 
in Homer, where, indeed, there is but little which they might 
not find. 

The Italians have been very diligent translators ; but I can 
hear of no version, unless perhaps Anguillara's Ovid may be 
excepted, which is read with eagerness. The Iliad of Salvini 
every reader may discover to be punctiliously exact ; but it 
seems to be the work of a linguist skilfully pedantick, and his 
countrymen, the proper judges of its power to please, reject it 
with disgust. 

Their predecessors the Romans have left some specimens of 
translation behind them, and that employment must have had 
some credit in which Tully and Germanicus engaged ; but 
unless we suppose, what is perhaps true, that the plays of 
Terence were versions of Menander, nothing translated seems 
ever to have risen to high reputation. The French, in the 
meridian hour of their learning, were very laudably industrious 
to enrich their own language with the wisdom of the ancients ; 
but found themselves reduced, by whatever necessity, to turn 
the Greek and Roman poetry into prose. Whoever could read 
an author, could translate him. From such rivals little can be 


428 POPE. ■ [1688— 

The chief help of Pope in this arduous undertaking was 
drawn from the versions of Dryden. Virgil had borrowed 
much of his imagery from Homer, and part of the debt was 
now paid by his translator. Pope searched the pages of 
Dryden for happy combinations of heroic diction ; but it 
will not be denied that he added much to what he found. 
He cultivated our language with so much diligence and art, 
that he has left in his Homer a treasure of poetical elegances 
to posterity. His version may be said to have tuned the 
English tongue; for since its appearance no writer, however 
deficient in other powers, has wanted melody. Such a series 
of lines so elaborately corrected, and so sweetly modulated, 
took possession of the publick ear ; the vulgar was enamoured 
of the poem, and the learned wondered at the translation. 

But in the most general applause discordant voices will 
always be heard. It has been objected by some, who wish to 
be numbered among the sons of learning, that Pope's version 
of Homer is not Hom^rical ; that it exhibits no resemblance 
of the original and characteristick manner of the Father of 
Poetry, as it wants his awful simplicity, his artless grandeur, 
his unaffected majesty. This cannot be totally denied; but 
it must be remembered that necessitas quod cogit defendit ; that 
may be lawfully done which cannot be forborne. Time and 
place will always enforce regard. In estimating this translation, 
consideration must be had of the nature of our language, the 
form of our metre, and, above all, of the change which two 
thousand years have made in the modes of life and the habits 
of thought. Virgil wrote in a language of the same general 
fabrick with that of Homer, in verses of the same measure, 
and in. an age nearer to Homer's time by eighteen hundred 
years ; yet he found, even then, the state of the world so 
much altered, and the demand for elegance so much increased, 
that mere nature would be endured no longer ; and perhaps, 
in the multitude of borrowed passages, very few can be shewn 
which he has not embellished. 

1744] POPE. 429 

There is a time when nations emerging from barbarity, and 
falling into regular subordination, gain leisure to grow wise, 
atid feel the shame of ignorance and the craving pain of 
unsatisfied curiosity. To this hunger of the mind plain sense 
is grateful ; that which fills the void removes uneasiness, and 
to be free from pain for a while is pleasure ; but repletion 
generates fastidiousness : a saturated intellect soon becomes 
luxurious, and knowledge finds no willing reception till it is 
recommended by artificial diction. Thus it will be found, in 
the progress of learning, that in all nations the first writers 
are simple, and that every age improves in elegance. One 
refinement always makes way for another, and what was 
expedient to Virgil was necessary to Pope. 

I suppose many readers of the English Iliad, when they 
have been touched with some unexpected beauty of the lighter 
kind, have tried to enjoy it in the original, where, alas ! it 
was not to be found. Homer doubtless owes to his translator 
many Ovidian graces not exactly suitable to his character ; but 
to have added can be no great crime, if nothing be taken 
away. Elegance is surely to be desired, if it be not gained 
at the expence of dignity. A hero would wish to be loved, 
as well as to be reverenced. 

To a thousand cavils one answer is sufficient ; the purpose 
of a writer is to be read, and the criticism which would destroy 
the power of pleasing must be blown aside. Pope wrote for 
his own age and his own nation : he knew that it was necessary 
to colour the images and point the sentiments of his author ; he 
therefore made him_graceful, but lost him some ot his sublimity. 

The copious notes with which the versioji is accompanied, 
and by which it is recommended to many.jeaders, though they 
were undoubtedly written to swell the^tolumes, ought not to 
pass without praise : commentaries which attrafct-the reader by 
the pleasure of perusal have not often appeared ; the notes 
of others are read to clear difficulties, those of Pope to vary 

430 POPE. [i6S8— 

It has however been objected, with sufficient reason, that 
there is in the commentary too much of unseasonable levity 
and affected gaiety ; that too many appeals are made to the 
Ladies, and the ease which is so carefully preserved is some- 
times the ease of a trifler. Every art has its terms, and every 
kind of instruction its proper style ; the gravity of common 
criticks may be tedious, but is less despicable than childish 

Of the Odyssey nothing remains to be observed : the same 
general praise may be given to both translations, and a 
particular examination of either would require a large volume. 
The notes were written by Broome, who endeavoured not 
unsuccessfully to imitate his master. 

Of the Dunciad the hint is confessedly taken from Dijden's 

Mac Flecknoe ; but the plan is so enlarged and diversified as 

justiy~to claim the praise of an original, and affords perhaps 

the best specimen that has yet appeared of personal satire 

• ludicrously pompous. 

That the design was moral, whatever the author might tell 
either his readers or himself, I am not convinced. The first 
motive was the desire of revenging the contempt with which 
Theobald had treated his Shakspeare, and regaining the honour 
, which he had lost by crushing his opponent. Theobald was not 
of bulk enough to fill a poem, and therefore it was necessary to 
find other enemies with other names, at whose expence he might 
divert the publick. 

Tn this design there was petulance and malignity enough ; 
but I cannot think it very, criminal. An author places himself 
uncalled before the tribunal of Criticism, and solicits fame at 
the hazard of disgrace, Dulness or deformity are not culpable 
in themselves, but may be very justly reproached when they 
pretend to the honour of wit or the influence of beauty. I 
bad writers were to pass without reprehension, what should 
restrain them ? impune diem consumpserit ingens Telephus ; and 
upon bad writers only will censure have much effect. The 

1744] .POPE. 431 

satire which brought Theobald, and Moore into contempt 
dropped impotent from Bentley, Hke the javelin of Priam. 

All truth is valuable, and satirical criticism may be considered 
as useful when it rectifies error and improves judgement ; he 
that reiines the publick taste is a publick benefactor. 

The beauties of this poem are well known ; its chief fault is 
the grossness of its images. Pope and Swift had an unnatural 
delight in ideas physically impure, such as every other tongue 
utters with unwillingness, and of which every ear shrinks from 
the mention. 

But even this fault, offensive as it is, may be forgiven for the 
excellence of other passages ; such as the formation and 
dissolution of Moore, the account of the Traveller, the mis- 
fortune of the Florist, and the crouded thoughts and stately 
numbers which dignify the concluding paragraph. 

The alterations which have been made in the Dunciad, not 
always for the better, require that it should be published, as in 
the last collection, with all its variations. 

The Essay on Man was a work of great labour and long 
consideration, but certainly not the happiest of Pope's per- 
formances. The subject is perhaps not very proper for poetry, 
and the poet was not sufficiently master of his subject; 
metaphysical morality was to him a new study, he was proud 
of his acquisitions, and, supposing himself master of great 
secrets, was in haste to teach what he had not learned. Thus 
he tells us, in the first Epistle, that from the nature of the 
Supreme Being may be deduced an order of beings such as 
mankind, because Infinite Excellence can do only what is best. 
He finds out that these beings must be somewhere, and that all 
the question is tdhether man be in a wrong place. Surely if, 
according to the poet's Leibnithian reasoning, we may infer 
that man ought to be, only because he is, we may allow that 
his place is the right place, because he has it. Supreme 
Wisdom is not less infallible in disposing than in creating. 
But what is meant by somewhere and place, and wrong place, 

432 POPE.* [1688— 

it had been vain to ask Pope, who probably had never asked 

Having exalted himself into the chair of wisdom, he tells us 
much that every man knows, and much that he does not know 
himself J that we see but little, and that the order of the 
universe is beyond our comprehension, an opinion not very 
uncommon ; and that there is a chain of subordinate beings 
from infinite to nothing, of which himself and his readers are 
equally ignorant. But he gives us one comfort, which, without 
his help, he supposes unattainable, in the position that though 
•we are fools, yet God is wise. 

This Essay affords an egregious instance of the predominance 
of genius, the dazzling splendour of imagery, and the seductive 
powers of eloquence. Never were penury of knowledge and 
vulgarity of sentiment so happily disguised. The reader feels 
his mind full, though he learns nothing ; and when he meets 
it in its new array, no longer knows the talk of his mother and 
his nurse. When these wonder-working sounds sink into sense, 
and the doctrine of the Essay, disrobed of its ornaments, is 
left to the powers of its naked excellence, what shall we 
discover ? That we are, in comparison with our Creator, very 
weak and ignorant ; that we do not uphold the chain of 
existence, and that we could not make one another with more 
skill than we are made. We may learn yet more ; that the arts 
of human life were copied ' from the instinctive operations of 
other animals ; that if the world be made for man, it may be 
said that man was made for geese. To these profound 
principles of natural knowledge are added some moral in- 
structions equally new ; that self-interest, well understood, will 
produce social concord ; that men are mutual gainers by mutual 
benefits ; that evil is sometimes balanced by good ; that human 
advantages are unstable and fallacious, of uncertain duration 
and doubtful effect ; that our true honour is, not to have a great 
part, but to act it well : that virtue only is our own ; and that 
happiness is always in our power. 

1744] POPE. i 433 

Surely a man of no very comprehensive search may venture 
to say that he has heard all this before ; but it was never till 
now recommended by such a blaze of embellishment, or such 
sweetness of melody. The vigorous contraction of some 
thoughts, the luxuriant amplification of others, the incidental 
illustrations, and sometimes the dignity, sometimes the softness 
of the verses, enchain philosophy, suspend criticism, and 
oppress judgement by overpowering pleasure. 

This is true of many paragraphs ; yet if I had undertaken 
to exemplify Pope's felicity of composition before a rigid 
critick, I should not select the Essay on Man ; for it contains 
more lines unsuccessfully laboured, more hardness of diction, 
more thoughts imperfectly expressed, more levity without 
elegance, and more heaviness without strength, than will easily 
be found in all his other works. 

The Characters of Men and Women are the product of 
diligent speculation upon human life ; much labour has been 
bestowed upon them, and Pope very seldom laboured in vain. 
That his excellence may be properly estimated, I recommend 
a comparison of his Characters of Women with Boileau's 
Satire ; it will then be seen with how much more perspicacity 
female nature is investigated, and female excellence selected; 
and he surely is no mean writer to whom Boileau shall be found 
inferior. The Characters of Men, however, are written with 
more, if not with deeper thought, and exhibit many passages 
exquisitely beautiful. The Gem and the Flower will not easily 
be equalled. In the women's part are some defects; the 
character of Attossa is not so neatly finished as that of Clodio ; 
and some of the female characters may be found perhaps more 
frequently among men ; what is said of Philomede was true of 

In the Epistles to Lord Bathurst and Lord Burlington, Dr. 
Warburton has endeavoured to find a train of thought which 
was never in the writer's head, and, to support his hypothesis, 
has printed that first which was published last. In one, the 

F F 


POPE. [1688— 

most valuable passage is perhaps the 'Ejflgy on Good Sense, 
and the other the End of the Duke of Buckingham. 

The Epistle to Arbuthnot, now arbitrarily called the Prologue 
to the Satires, is a performance consisting, as it seems, of many- 
fragments wrought into one design, which by this union of 
scattered beauties contains more striking paragraphs than could 
probably have been brought together into an occasional work. 
As there is no stronger motive to exertion than self-defence, no 
part has more elegance, spirit, or dignity, than the poet's vindi- 
cation of his own character. The meanest passage is the 
satire upon Sporus. 

Of the two poems which derived their names from the year, 
and which are called the Epilogue to the Satires, it was very 
justly remarked by Savage, that the second was in the whole 
more strongly conceived, and more equally supported, but that 
it had no single passages equal to the contention in the first for 
the dignity of Vice, and the celebration of the triumph of 

The Imitations of Horace seem to have been written as 
relaxations of his genius. This employment became his 
favourite by its facility ; the plan was ready to his hand, and 
nothing was required but to accommodate as he could the 
sentiments of an old author to recent facts or familiar images ; 
but what is easy is seldom excellent ; such imitations cannot 
give pleasure to common readers ; the man of learning may be 
sometimes surprised and delighted by an unexpected parallel ; 
but the comparison requires knowledge of the original, which 
will likewise often detect strained applications. Between 
Roman images and English manners there will be an irre- 
concileable dissimilitude, and the work will be generally un- 
couth and party-coloured; neither original nor translated, 
neither ancient nor modern. 

Pope had, in proportions very nicely adjusted to each other, 
all the qualities that constitute genius. He had Invention, by 
which new trains of events are formed, and new scenes of 

1744] POPE. 43S 

imagery displayed, as in the Rape of the Lock ; and by which 
extrinsic and adventitious embellishments and illustrations are 
connected with a known subject, as in the Essay on Criticism. 
He had Imaginatioji, which strongly impresses on the writer's 
mind, and enables him to convey to the reader the various 
forms of nature, incidents of life, and energies of passion, as 
in his Eloisa, Windsor Forest, and the E thick Epistles. He 
had Judgement, which selects from life or nature what the 
present purpose requires, and, by separating the essence of 
things from its concomitants, often makes the representation 
more powerful than the reality : and he had colours of language 
always before him, ready to decorate his matter with every 
grace of elegant expression, as when he accommodates his 
diction to the wonderful multiplicity of Homer's sentiments 
and descriptions. 

Poetical expression includes sound as well as meaning; 
Mustek, says Dryden, is inarticulate poetry ; among the excel- 
lences of Pope, therefore, must be mentioned the rnelody of 
his metre. By perusing the works of Dryden, he discovered 
the most perfect fabrick of English verse, and habituated 
himself to that only which he found the best ; in consequence 
of which restraint his poetry has been censured as too uni- 
formly musical, and as glutting the ear with unvaried sweetness. 
I suspect this objection to be the cant of those who judge by 
principles rather than perception : and who would even them- 
selves have less pleasure in his works if he had tried to relieve 
attention by studied discords, or affected to break his lines 
and vary his pauses. 

But though he was thus careful of his versification, he did 
not oppress his powers with superfluous rigour. He seems 
to have thought with Boileau, that the practice of writing 
might be refined till the difficulty should overbalance the 
advantage. The construction of his language is not always 
strictly grammatical ; with those rhymes which prescription 
had conjoined he contented himself, without regard to Swift's 

F F 2 

1(36 POPE. [1688— 

remonstrances, though there was no striking consonance ; nor 
was he very careful to vary his terminations, or to refuse 
admission at a small distance to the same rhymes. 

To Swift's edict for the exclusion of Alexandrines and 
Triplets he paid little regard; he admitted them, but, in the 
opinion of Fenton, too rarely; he uses them more liberally 
in his translation than his poems. 

He has a few double rhymes ; and always, I think, unsuc- 
cessfully, except once in the Rape of the Lock. 

Expletives he very early ejected from his verses ; but he 
now and then admits an epithet rather commodious than 
important. Each of the six first lines of the Iliad might 
lose two syllables with very little diminution of the meaning i 
and sometimes, after all his art and labour, one verse 
seems to be made for the sake of another. In his latter 
productions the diction is sometimes vitiated by French 
idioms, with which Bolingbroke had perhaps infected him. 

I have been told that the couplet by which he declared 
his own ear to be most gratified was this : 

Lo, where Moeotis sleeps, and hardly flows 
The freezing Tanais through a waste of snows. 

But the reason of this preference I cannot discover. 

It is remarked by Watts, that there is scarcely a happy 
combination of words, or a phrase poetically elegant in the 
English language, which Pope has not inserted into his version 
of Homer. How he obtained possession of so many beauties 
of speech it were desirable to know. That he gleaned from 
authors, obscure as well as eminent, what he thought brilliant 
or useful, and preserved it all in a regular collection, is not 
imlikely. When, in his last years. Hall's Satires were shewn 
him, he wished that he had seen them sooner. 

New sentiments and new images others may produce ; but 
to attempt any further improvement of versification will be 
dangerous. Art and diligence have now done their best, and 

1744] POPE. 437 

what shall be added will be the effort -of tedious toil and 
needless curiosity. 

After all this, it is surely superfluous to answer the question 
that has once been asked, Whether Pope was a poet ; otherwise 
than by asking in return, If Pope be not a poet, where is 
poetry to be found ? To circumscribe poetry by a definition 
will only shew the narrowness of the definer, though a definition 
which shall exclude Pope will not easily be made. Let us 
look round upon the present time, and back upon the past; 
let us enquire to whom the voice of mankind has decreed the 
wreath of poetry ; let their productions be examined, and their 
claims stated, and the pretensions of Pope will be no more 
disputed. Had he given the world only his version, the name 
of poet must have been allowed him : if the writer of the 
Iliad were to class his successors, he would assign a very 
high place to his translator, without requiring any other 
evidence of Genius. 

The following Letter, of which the original is in the hands 
of Lord Hardwicke, was communicated to me by the kindness 
of Mr. Jodrell. 

" To Mr. Bridges, at the Bishop of London's, at Fulham. 


" The favoui: of your Letter, with your Remarks, can never 
be enough acknowledged ; and the speed, with which you 
discharged so troublesome a task, doubles the obligation. 

" I must own, you have pleased me very much by the 
commendations so ill bestowed upon me ; but, I assure you, 
much more by the frankness of your censure, which I ought 
to take the more kindly of the two, as it is more advantageous 
to a scribbler to be improved in his judgement than to be 
soothed in his vanity. The. greater part of those deviations 
from the Greek, which you have observed, I was led into 

438 POPE. [i688— 

by Chapman and Hobbes; who are (it seems) as much 
celebrated for their knowledge of the original, as they are 
decryed for the badness of their translations. Chapman 
pretends to have restored the genuine sense of the author, 
from the mistakes of all former explainers, in several hundred 
places: and the Cambridge editors of the large Homer, in 
Greek and Latin, attributed so much to Hobbes, that they 
confess they have corrected the old Latin interpretation very 
often by his version. For my part, I generally took the 
author's meaning to be as you have explained it; yet their 
authority, joined to the knowledge of my own imperfectness 
in the language, over-ruled me. However, Sir, you may be 
confident I think you in the right, because you happen to be 
of my opinion (for men (let them say what they will) never 
approve any other's sense, but as it squares with their own). 
But you have made me much more proud of, and positive in 
my judgement, since it is strengthened by yours. I think 
your criticisms, which regard the expression, very just, and 
shall make my profit of them : to give you some proof 
that I am in earnest, I will alter three verses on your bare 
objection, though I have Mr. Dryden's example for each 
of them. And this, I hope, you will account no small piece 
of obedience from one who values the authority of one 
true poet above that of twenty criticks or commentators. 
But though I speak thus of commentators, I will continue 
to read carefully all I can procure, to make up, that way, 
for my own want of critical understanding in the original 
beauties of Homer. Though the greatest of them are certainly 
those of the Invention and Design, which are not at all 
confined to the language : for the distinguishing excellences 
of Homer are (by the consent of the best criticks of all 
nations) first in the manners, (which include all the speeches, 
as being no other than the representations of each person's 
manners by his words :) and then in that rapture and fire, 
which carries you away with him, with that wonderful force, 
that no man who has a true poetical spirit is master of himself, 

1744] POPE. 439 

while he reads him, Homer makes you interested and con- 
cerned before you are aware, all at once ; whereas Virgil does 
it by soft degrees. This, I believe, is what a translator of 
Homer ought principally to imitate; and it is very hard for 
any translator to come up to it, because the chief reason why 
all translations fall short of their originals is, that the very 
constraint they are obliged to renders them heavy and 

"The great beauty of Homer's language, as I take it, 
consists in that noble simplicity which runs through all his 
works ; (and yet his diction, contrary to what one would 
imagine consistent with simplicity, is at the same time very 
copious.) I don't know how I have run into this pedantry 
in a Letter, but I find I have said too much, as well as 
spoken too inconsiderately; what farther thoughts I have 
upon this subject, I shall be glad to communicate to you (for 
my own improvement) when we meet ; which is a happiness 
I very earnestly desire, as I do likewise some opportunity of 
proving how much I think myself obliged to your friendship, 
and how truly I am. Sir, 

"Your most faithful, humble servant, 

"A. Pope." 

The Criticism upon Pope's Epitaphs, which was printed in 
The Visitor, is placed here, being too minute and particular 
to be inserted in the Life. 

Every Art is best taught by example. Nothing contributes 
more to the cultivation of propriety than remarks on the 
works of those who have most excelled. I shall therefore 
endeavour, at this visit, to entertain the young students in 
poetry, with an examination of Pope's Epitaphs. 

To define an epitaph is useless ; every one knows that 
it is an inscription on a tomb. An epitaph, therefore, impHes 

440 POPE. [1688- 

no particular character of writing, but may be composed in 
verse or prose. It is indeed commonly panegyrical ; because 
we are seldom distinguished with a stone but by our friends ; 
but it has no rule to restrain or mollify it, except this, that it 
ought not to be longer than common beholders may be 
expected to have leisure and patience to peruse. 

On Charles Earl of Dorset, in the Church of Wythyham 
in Sussex. 

Dorset, the grace of courts, the Muse's pride, 
Patron of arts, and judge of nature. Ay' A.. 
The scourge of pride, though sanctify'd or great, 
Of <ops in learning, and of knaves in state ; 
' Yet soft in nature, though severe his lay, 
His anger moral, and his wisdom gay. 
Blest satyrist ! who touch'd the mean so true. 
As show'd. Vice had his hate and pity too. 
Blest courtier ! who could king and country please, 
Yet sacred kept his friendship, and his ease. 
Blest peer ! his great forefather's every grace 
Reflecting, and reflected on his race ; 
Where other Buckhursts, other Dorsets shine. 
And patriots still, or poets, deck the line. 

The first distich of this epitaph contains a kind of informa- 
tion which few would want, that the man, for whom the tomb 
was erected, died. There are indeed some qualities worthy of 
praise ascribed to the dead, but none that were likely to 
exempt him from the lot of man, or incline us much to 
wonder that he should die. What is meant hy judge of nature 
is not easy to say. Nature is not the object of human judge- 
ment ; for it is vain to judge where we cannot alter. If by 
nature is meant what is commonly called nature by the 
criticks, a just representation of things really existing, and 
actions really performed, nature cannot be properly opposed 

1744] POPE. 441 

to art ; nature being, in this sense, only the best effect 
of art. 

The scourge of pride — ■ 

Of this couplet, the second line is not, what is intended, an 
illustration of the former. Pride, in the Great, is indeed well 
enough connected with knaves in state, though knaves is a word 
rather too ludicrous and hght ; but the mention of sanctified 
pride will not lead the thoughts to fops in learning, but rather 
to some species of tyranny or oppression, something more 
gloomy and more formidable than foppery. 

Yet soft his nature — 

This is a high complirnent, but was not first bestowed on 
Dorset by Pope. The next verse is extremely beautiful. 

Blest satyrist ! — 

In this distich is another line of which Pope was not the 
author. I do not mean to blame these imitations with much 
harshness ; in long performances they are scarcely to be 
avoided, and in shorter they may be indulged, because the 
train of the composition may naturally involve them, or 
the scantiness of the subject allow little choice. However, 
what is borrowed is not to be enjoyed as our own, and it 
is the business of critical justice to give every bird of the 
Muses his proper feather. 

Blest courtier J — 

Whether a courtier can properly be commended for keeping 
his ease sacred may perhaps be disputable. To please king 
and country, without sacrificing friendship to any change of 
times, was a very uncommon instance of prudence or felicity, 
and deserved to be kept separate from so poor a commenda- 
tion as care of his ease. I wish our poets would attend a little 
more accurately to the use of the word sacred, which surely 

442 POPE [1688— 

should never be applied in a serious composition, but where 
some reference may be made to a higher Being, or where 
some duty is exacted or implied. A man may keep his 
friendship sacred, because promises of friendship are very 
awful ties : but methinks he cannot, but in a burlesque sense, 
be said to keep his ease sacred. 

Blest peer I 

The blessing ascribed to the peer has no connection with 
his peerage : they might happen to any other man whose 
ancestors were remembered, or whose posterity were likely 
to be regarded. 

I know not whether this epitaph be worthy either of the 
writer or of the man entombed. 


On Sir William Trumbal, one of the principal Secretaries of 
State to King William III., who, having resisted his place, 
died in his retirement at Easthamsted in Berkshire, 17 16. 

A pleasing form, a firm, yet cautious mind, 
Sincere, though prudent ; constant, yet resign'd ; 
Honour unchanged, a principle proiest, 
Fix'd to one side, but moderate to the rest : 
An honest courtier, yet a patriot too. 
Just to his prince, and to his country too. 
Fill'd with the sense of age, the fire of youth, 
A scorn of wrangling, yet a zeal for truth ; 
A generous faith, from superstitioii free ; 
A love to peace, and hate of tyranny ; 
Such this man was ; who now, from earth remov'd, 
At length enjoys that liberty he lov'd. 

In this epitaph, as in many others, there appears, at the 
first view, a fault which I think scarcely any beauty can 
compensate. The name is omitted. The end of an epitaph 
is to convey some account of the dead ; and to what purpose 

1744] POPE. 413 

is any thing told of him whose name is concealed? An 
epitaph, and a history, of a nameless hero, are equally absurd, 
since the virtues and qualities so recounted in either are 
scattered at the mercy of fortune to be appropriated by 
guess. The name, it is true, may be read upon the stone ; 
but what obligation has it to the poet, whose verses wander 
over the earth, and leave their subject behind them, and 
who is forced, like an unskilful painter, to make his purpose 
known by adventitious help ? 

This epitaph is wholly without elevation, and contains 
nothing striking or particular; but the poet, is not to be 
blamed for the defects of his subject. He said perhaps the 
best that could be said. There are, however, some defects 
which were not made necessary by the character in which 
he was employed. There is no opposition between an honest 
courtier and a patriot ; for an honest courtier cannot but be 
a patriot. 

It was unsuitable to the nicety required in short com- 
positions, to close his verse with the word too ; every rhyme 
should be a word of emphasis, nor can this rule be safely 
neglected, except where the length of the poem makes 
~ slight inaccuracies excusable, or allows room for beauties 
sufficient to overpower the eftects of petty faults. 

At the beginning of the seventh line the -^oxA filled is weak 
and prosaic, having no particular adaptation to any of the 
words that follow it. 

The thought in the last line is irngertinent, having no 
connection with the foregoing character, nor with the condition 
of the man described. Had the epitaph been written on 
the poor conspirator 1 who died lately in prison, after a 
confinement of more than forty years, without any crime 
proved against him, the sentiment had been just and pa- 
thetical ; but why should Trumbal be congratulated upon his 
liberty, who had never known restraint ? 
' Bernadi. 


POPE. [1688- 


On the Hon. Simon Harcourt, oiily son of the Lord Chancellor 
Harcourt, at the Church of Stanton- Harcourt in Oxford- 
shire, 1720. 

To this sad shrine, whoe'er thou art, draw near. 
Here lies.the friend most lov'd, the son most dear : 
Who ne'er knew joy, but friendship might divide. 
Or gave his father grief but when he dy'd. 

How vain is reason, eloquence how weak ! 
If Pope must tell what Harcourt cannot speak. 
Oh, let thy once-lov'd friend inscribe thy stone, 
And with a father's sorrows mix his own ! 

This epitaph is principally remarkable for the artful in- 
troduction of the name, which is inserted with a peculiar 
felicity, to which chance must concur with genius, which no 
man can hope to attain twice, and which cannot be copied 
but with servile imitation. 

I cannot but wish that, of this inscription, the two last lines 
had been omitted, as they take away from the energy what they 
do not add to the sense. 


On James Craggs, Esq.; 
in Westminster Abbey. 

Jacobus Craggs, 








1744] POPE. 445 

Statesman, yet friend to truth ! of soul sincere, 
In action faithful, and in honour clear ! 
Who broke no promise, serv'd no private end, 
Who gain'd no title, and who lost no friend ; 
Ennobled by himself, by all approv'd, 
Prais'd, wept, and honour'd, by the Muse he lov'd. 

The lines on Craggs were not originally intended for an 
epitaph ; and therefore some faults are to be imputed, to the 
violence with which they are torn from the poem that first 
contained them. We may, however, observe some defects. 
There is a redundancy of words in the first couplet: it is 
superfluous to tell of him, who was sincere, t7-ue, and faithful, 
that he was in honour clear. 

There seems to be an opposition intended in the fourth 
line, which is not very obvious : where is the relation between 
the two positions, that he gained no title and lost no friend 1 

It may be proper here to remark the absurdity of joining, 
in the same inscription, Latin and English, or verse and prose. 
If either language be preferable to the other, let that only be 
used ; for no reason can be given why part of the information 
should be given in one tongue, and part in another, on a tomb, 
more than in any other place, on any other occasion ; and to 
tell all that can be conveniently told in verse, and then to call 
in the help of prose, has always the appearance of a very 
artless expedient, or of an attempt unaccomplished. Such an 
epitaph resembles the conversation of a foreigner, who tells 
part of his meaning by words, and conveys part by signs. 

Intended for Mr. RowE. 
In Westminster Abbey. 

Thy reliques, Rowe, to this fair urn we trust, 
And sacred, place by Dryden's awful dust ; 
Beneath a rude and nameless stone he hes, 
To which thy tomb shall guide inquiring eyes. 

446 POPE. [1688— 

Peace to thy gentle shade, and endless rest ! 
Blest in thy genius, in thy love too blest ! 
One grateful woman to thy fame supplies 
What a whole thankless land to his denies. 

Of this inscription the chief fault is, that it belongs less to 
Rowe, for whom it was written, than to Dryden, who was buried 
near him ; and indeed gives very little information concerning 

To wish, I'eace to thy shade, is too mythological to fee 
admitted into a christian temple : the ancient worship -^s 
infected almost all our other compositions, and might there-- 
fore be contented to spare our epitaphs. Let fiction, at least, 
cease with life, and let us be serious over the grave. 


On Mrs. Corbet, 
who died of a Cancer in her Breast. 

Here rests a woman, good without pretence, 
Blest with plain reason, and with sober sense : 
No conquest she, but o'er herself desir'd ; 
No arts essay'd, but not to be admir'd. 
Passion and pride were to her soul unknown, 
Convinc'd that Virtue only is our own. 
So imafifected, so compos'd a mind, 
So firm, yet soft, so strong, yet so refin'd, 
Heaven, as its purest gold, by tortures try'd, 
The saint sustain'd, but the woman dy'd. 

I have always considered this as the most valuable of all 
Pope's epitaphs ; the subject of it is a character not dis- 
criminated by any shining or eminent peculiarities ; yet that 
which really makes, though not the splendor, the felicity of 
life, and that which every wise man will choose for his final 
and lasting companion in the languor of age, in the quiet of 
privacy, when he departs weary and disgusted from the osten- 

1744] POPE. 447 

tatious, the volatile, and the vain. Of such a character, which 
the dull overlook, and the gay despise, it was fit that the value 
should be made known, and the dignity established. Domestick 
virtue, as it is exerted without great occasions, or conspicuous 
consequences, in an even unnoted tenor, required the genius 
of Pope to display it in such a manner as might attract regard, 
and enforce reverence. Who can forbear to lament that this 
amiable woman has no name in the verses ? 

If the particular lines of this inscription be examined, it 
wS appear less faulty than the rest. There is scarce one 
lire taken from common places, unless it be that in which 
only Virtue is said to be our own. I once heard a Lady of 
great beauty and excellence object to the fourth line, that it 
contained an unnatural and incredible panegyrick. Of this 
let the Ladies judge. 


On the Monument of the Hon. Robert Digby, and of his Sister 
Mary, erected by their Father the Lord Digby, in the Church 
of Sherborne in Dorsetshire, 1727, 

Go ! fair example of untainted youth. 
Of modest wisdom, and pacifick truth : 
Compos'd in sufferings, and in joy sedate. 
Good without noise, without pretension great. 
Just of thy word, in every thought sincere. 
Who knew no wish but what the world might hear : 
Of softest manners, unaffected mind. 
Lover of peace, and friend of human kind : 
Go, live ! for Heaven's eternal year is thine. 
Go, and exalt thy mortal to divine. 

And thou, blest maid ! attendant on his doom, 
Pensive hast follow'd to the silent tomb, 
Steer'd the same course to the same quiet shore. 
Not parted long, and now to part no more ! 
Go, then, where only bliss sincere is known ! 
Go, where to love and to enjoy are one ! 

448 POPE. [1688— 

Yet take these tears, Mortality's relief, 
And till we share your joys, forgive our grief : 
These little rites, a stone, a verse receive, 
'Tis all a father, all a friend can give ! 

This epitaph contains of the brother only a general indis- 
criminate character, and of the sister tells nothing but that 
she died. The difficulty in writing epitaphs is to give a 
particular and appropriate praise. This, however, is not 
a:lways to be performed, whatever be the diligence or ability 
of the writer ; for the greater part of mankind have no character 
at all, have little that distinguishes them from others equally 
good or bad, and therefore nothing can be said of them 
which may not be applied with equal propriety to a thousand 
more. It is indeed no great panegyrick, that there is inclosed 
in this tomb one who was bom in one year, and died in 
another ; yet many useful and amiable lives have been spent, 
which yet leave little materials for any other memorial. These 
are however not the proper subjects of poetry ; and whenever 
friendship, or any other motive, obliges a poet to write on 
such subjects, he must be forgiven if he sometimes wanders 
in generalities, and utters the same praises over different 

The scantiness of human praises can scarcely be made 
more apparent than by remarking how often Pope has, in 
the few epitaphs which he composed, found it necessary to 
borrow from himself. The fourteen epitaphs which he has 
written comprise about an hundred and forty lines, in which 
there are more repetitions than will easily be found in all 
the rest of his works. In the eight lines which make the 
character of Digby there is scarce any thought, or word, 
which may not be found in the other epitaphs. 

The ninth line, which is far the strongest and most elegant, 
is borrowed from Dryden. The conclusion is the same 
with that on Harcourt, but is here more elegant and better 

'744] fOPE. 449 


On Sir Godfrey Kneller. 
In Westminster-Abbey, 1723. 

Kneller, by heaven, and not a master taught. 
Whose art was nature, and whose pictures thought ; 
Now for two ages, having snatch'd from fate 
Whate'er was beauteous, or whate'er was great. 
Lies crown'd with Princes honours, Poets lays, 
Due to his merit, and brave thirst of praise. 

Living, great Nature fear'd he might outvie 
Her works ; and dying, fears herself may die. 

Of this epitaph the first couplet is good, the second not 
bad, the third is deformed with a broken metaphor, the 
word crowned not being applicable to the honours or the iays, 
and the fourth is not only borrowed from the epitaph on 
Raphael, but of very harsh construction. 


On General Henry Withers. 
In Westminster-Abbey, 1729. 

Here, Withers, rest ! thou bravest, gentlest mind, 
Thy country's friend, but more of human kind, 
O ! born to arras ! O ! worth in youth approv'd ! 
O ! soft humanity in age belov'd ! 
For thee the hardy veteran drops a tear. 
And the gay courtier feels the sigh sincere. 

Withers, adieu ! yet not with thee remove 
Thy martial spirit, or thy social love ! 
Amidst corruption, luxury, and rage, 
Still leave some ancient virtues to our age : 
Nor let us say (those English glories gone) 
The last true Briton lies beneath this stone. 

The epitaph on Withers affords another instance of common 
places, though somewhat diversified, by mingled qualities, and 
tae peculiarity of a profession. 

450 POPE. [1688— 

The second couplet is abrupt, general, and unpleasing ; 
exclamation seldom succeeds in our language; and, I think, 
it may be observed that the particle O ! used at the beginnmg 
of a sentence, always offends. 

The third couplet is more happy; the value expressed 
for him, by different sorts of men, raises him to esteem; 
there is yet something of the common cant of superficial 
satirists, who suppose that the insincerity of a courtier 
destroys all his sensations, and that he is equally a dissembler 
to the living and the dead. 

'At the third couplet I should wish the epitaph to close, 
but that I should be unwilling to lose the two next lines, 
which yet are dearly bought if they cannot be retained 
without the four that follow them. 


On Mr. Elijah Fenton. 
At Easthampstedin Berkshire, 1730. 

This modest stone, what few vain marbles can, 
May truly say, Here lies an honest man : 
A poet, blest beyond the poet's fate. 
Whom Heaven kept sacred from the Proud and Great : 
Foe to loud praise, and friend to learned ease. 
Content with science in the vale of peace. 
Calmly he look'd on either life ; and here 
Saw nothing to regret, or there to fear ; 
From Nature's temperate feast rose satisfy'd, 
Thank'd heaven that he had liVd, and that he d/d. 

The first couplet of this epitaph is borrowed from Crashaw. 
The four next lines contain a species of praise peculiar, 
original, and just. Here, therefore, the inscription should have 
ended, the latter part containing nothing but what is common 
to every man who is wise and good. The character of Fenton 
was so amiable, that I cannot forbear to wish for some poet 
or biographer to display it more fully for the advantage of 
posterity. If he did not stand in the first rank of genius, he 

1744] POPE. 451 

may claim a place in the second ; and, whatever criticism may 
object to his writings, censure could find very little to blame in 
his life. 


On Mr. Gay. 
In Westminster- Abbey, xlTjZ. 

Of manners gentle, of affections mild ; 
In wit, a man ; simplicity, a child : 
With native humour tempering virtuous rage, 
Form'd to delight at once and lash the age: 
Above temptation, in a low estate, 
And uncorrupted, ev'n among the Great : 
A safe companion, and an easy friend, 
Unblam'd through life, lamented in thy end. 
These are thy honours ! not that here thy bust 
Is mix'd with heroes, or with kings thy dust ; 
But that the Worthy and the Good shall say. 
Striking their pensive bosoms — Here lies Gay. 

As Gay was the favourite of our author, this epitaph was 
probably written with an uncommon degree of attention ; yet 
it is not more successfully executed than the rest, for it will not 
always happen that the success of a poet is proportionate to his 
labour. The same observation may be extended to all works 
of imagination, which are often influenced by causes wholly out 
of the performer's power, by hints of which he perceives not 
the origin, by sudden elevations of mind which he cannot 
produce in himself, and which sometimes rise when he expects 
them least. 

The two parts of the first line are only echoes of each other ; 
ge7itle manners and mild affections, if they mean any thing must 
mean the same. 

That Gay was a man in wit is a very frigid commendation ; 
to have the wit of a man is not much for a poet. The wit of 
man, and the simplicity of a child, make a poor and vulgar 
contrast, and raise no ideas of excellence, either intellectual or 

G G 2 


452 POPE. [1688- 

In the next couplet rage is less properly introduced after the 
mention of mildness and gentleness, which are made the con- 
stituents of his character ; for a man so mild and gentle to 
temper his rage, was not difficult. 

The next line is unharmonious in its sound, and mean in its 
conception ; the opposition is obvious, and the word lash used 
absolutely, and without any modification, is gross and improper. 

To be above temptation in poverty, and free from corruption 
among the Great, is indeed such a peculiarity as deserved 
nbtice. But to be a safe companion is praise merely negative, 
arising not from the possession of virtue, but the absence of 
vice, and that one of the most odious. 

As little can be added to his character, by asserting that he 
was lamented in his end. Every man that dies is, at least by 
the writer of his epitaph, supposed to be lamented, and there- 
fore this general lamentation does no honour to Gay. 

The first eight lines have no grammar; the adjectives are 
without any substantive, and the epithets without a subject 

The thought in the last line, that Gay is buried in the 
bosoms of the -worthy and the good, who are distinguished only 
to lengthen the line, is so dark that few understand it ; and so 
harsh, when it is explained, that Still fewer approve. 


Intended for Sir Isaac Newton. 
I71 Westminster- Abbey. 


Quem Immortalem 

Testantur, Tempus, Natura, Cwlum : 


Hoc marmor fatetur. 

Nature, and Nature'slaws, lay hid in night, 
God said, Het Newton be ! And all was light. 

1744] POPE. 453 

Of this epitaph, short as it is, the faults seem not to be very 
few. Why part should be Latin and part English, it is not easy 
to discover. In the Latin, the opposition of Immortalis and 
Mortalis, is a mere sound, or a mere quibble ; he is not 
immortal in any sense contrary to that in which he is mortal. 

In the verses the thought is obvious, and the words night 
and light are too nearly allied. 


Oil Edmund Duke ^ Buckingh'am, who died in the \t)th Year 
of his Age, 1735. 

If modest youth, with cool reflection crown'd. 
And every opening virtue blooming round. 
Could save a parent's justest pride from fate. 
Or add one, patriot to a sinking state ; 
This weeping marble had not ask'd thy tear. 
Or sadly told-,, how many hopes lie here ! 
The living virtue'now had shone approv'd, 
The senate heard him,~and-his country loVd. 
Yet softer honours, and less noisy fame 
Attend the shade of gentle Buckingham : 
In whom a race, for courage fam'd and art. 
Ends in the milder merit of the heart ; 
And chiefs or sages long to Britain given, 
Pays the last tribute of a saint to heaven. ' 

This epitaph Mr. Warburton prefers to the rest, but I know 
not for what reason. To crown with r^ection is surely a mode 
of speech approaching to nonsense. Opening virtues blooming 
round, is something like tautology ; the six following lines are 
poor and prosaick. Art is in another couplet used for arts, 
that a rhyme may be had to heart. The six last lines are the 
best, but not excellent. 

The rest of his sepulchral performances hardly deserve the 
notice of criticism. The contemptible Dialogue between He 
and She should have been suppressed for the author's sake. 

In his last epitaph on himself, in which he attempts to be 

454 POPE. [1688— 1744 

jocular upon one of the few things that make wise men serious, 
he confounds the living man with the dead : 

Under this stone, or under this sill, 
Or under this turf, &c. 

When a man is once buried, the question, under what he is 
buried, is easily decided. He forgot that though he wrote the 
epitaph in a state of uncertainty, yet it could not be laid over 
him till his grave was made. Such is the folly of wit when it is 
ill employed. 

The world has but little new ; even this wretchedness seems 
to have been borrowed from the following tuneless lines : 

Ludovici Areosti humantur ossa 

Sub hoc marmore, vel sub hac humo, seu 

Sub quicquid voluit benignus hseres 

Sive hKrede benignior comes, seu 

Opportunius incidens Viator ; 

Nam scire haud potuit futura, sed nee 

Tanti erat vacuum sibi cadaver 

Ut utnam cuperet parare vivens, 

Vivens ista tamen sibi paravit. 

QuEe inscribi voluit suo sepulchro 

Olim siquod haberetis sepulchrum. 

Surely Ariosto did not venture to expect that his trifle would 
have ever had such an illustrious imitator. 



1716 — 1771. 

Thomas Gray, the son of Mr. Philip Gray, a scrivener of 
London, was born in Cornhill, November 26, 17 16. His 
grammatical education he received at Eton under the care of 
Mr. Antrobus, his mother's brother, then assistant to Dr. 
George J and when he left school, in 1734, entered a pensioner 
at Peterhouse in Cambridge. 

The transition from the school to the college is, to most 
young scholars, the time from which they date their years of 
manhood, liberty, and happiness ; but Gray seems to have been 
very little delighted with academical gratifications ; he liked at 
Cambridge neither the mode of life nor the fashion of study, 
and lived sullenly on to the time when his attendance on 
lectures was no longer required. As he intended to profess 
the Common Law, he took no degree. 

When he had been at Cambridge about five years, Mr. 
Horace Walpole, whose friendship he had gained at Eton, 
invited him to travel with him as his companion. They 
wandered through France into Italy; and Gray's Letters 
contain a very pleasing account of many parts of their journey. 
But unequal friendships are easily dissolved : at Florence they 
quarrelled, and parted; and Mr. Walpole is now content to 

4S6 GRAY. [1716— 

have it told that it was by his fault. If we look however with- 
out prejudice on the world, we shall find that men, whose 
consciousness of their own merit sets them above the com- 
pliances of servility, are apt enough in their association with 
superiors to watch their own dignity with troublesome and 
punctilious jealousy, and in the fervour of independence to exact 
that attention which they refuse to pay. Part they did, what- 
ever was the quarrel, and the rest of their travels was doubtless 
more unpleasant to them both. Gray continued his journey 
in a manner suitable to his own little fortune, with only an 
occasional servant. 

He returned to England in September, 1741, and in about 
two months afterwards buried his father ; who had, by an in- 
judicious waste of money upon a new house, so much lessened 
his fortune, that Gray thought himself too poor to study the law. 
, He therefore retired to Cambridge, where he soon after became 
Bachelor of Civil Law ; and where, without liking the place or 
its inhabitants, or professing to like them, he passed, except a 
short residence at London, the rest of his life. 

About this time he was deprived of Mr. West, the son of a 
chancellor of Ireland, a friend on whom he appears to have set 
a high value, and who deserved his esteem by the powers which 
he shews in his Letters, and in the Ode to May, which Mr. 
! Mason has preserved, as well as by the sincerity with which 
when Gray sent him part of Agrippina, a tragedy that he had 
just begun, he gave an opinion which probably intercepted the 
progress of the work, and which the judgement of every reader 
will confirm. It was certainly no loss to the English stage that 
Agrippina was never finished, 
r In this year (1742) Gray seems first to have applied himself 
\ seriously to poetry ; for in this year were produced the Ode to 
\ Spring, his Prospect of Eton, and his Ode to Adversity. He 
* began likewise a Latin poem, de Principiis cogitandi. 

It may be collected from the narrative of Mr. Mason, that 
his first ambition was to have excelled in Latin poetry : perhaps 

1771] GRAY. 457 

it were reasonable to wish that he had prosecuted his design ; 
for though there is atwesent some embarrassment in his phrase, 
and some harshness innis Lyrick numbers, his copiousness of 
language is such as very few possess ; and his lines, even when 
imperfect, discover a writer whom practice would quickly have 
made skilful. 

He now lived on at Peterhouse, very little solicitous what 
others did or thought, and cultivated his mind and enlarged 
his views without any other purpose than of improving and 
amusing himself; when _Mr. Mason, being elected fellow of 
Pembroke-hall, brought him a companion who was afterwards 
to be his editor, and'wnose fondness and fidelity has kindled in 
him. a zeal of admiration, which cannot be reasonably expected 
from the neutrality of a stranger and the coldness of a critick. 

In this retirement he wrote (1747) an ode on the Death of 
Mr. Walpole's Cat ; and the year afterwards attempted a poem 
of more importance, on Government and Education, of which 
the fragments which remain have many excellent lines. 

His next production (1750) was his far-famed Begy in the 
Church-yard, which, finding its way into a Magazine, first, I 
believe, made him known to the publick. 

An invitation from Lady Cobham about this time gave 
occasion to an odd composition called a Long Story, which 
adds little to Gray's character. 

Several of his pieces were published (1753), with designs, by 
Mr. Bentley ; and, that they might in some form or other 
make a book, only one side of each leaf was printed. I 
believe the poems and the plates recommended eacn other 
so well, that the whole impiresssion was soon bought. This 
year he lost his mother. 

Some time afterwards (1756) some young men of the college, 
whose chambers were near his, diverted themselves with dis- 
turbing him by frequent and troublesome noiseSj and, as is 
said, by pranks yet more offensive and contemptuous. This 
insolence, having endured it a while, he represented to the 

45S GRAY. [1716— 

governors of the society, among whom perhaps he had no 
friends; and, finding his complaint little regarded, removed 
himself to PgnibrQte-hall. 

In 1757 he published The Prog ress. of Poetry and Th e Bard , 
two compositions at which the readers of poetry were at first 
content to gaze in mute amazement. Some that tried them 
confessed their inability to understand them, though Warburton 
said that they were understood as well as the works of Milton 
and Shakspeare, which it is the fashion to admire. Garrick 
wrote a few lines in their praise. Some hardy champions 
undertook to rescue them from neglect, and in a short time 
many were content to be shewn beauties which they could 
not see. 
1 Gray's reputation was now so high, that, after the death of 
Gibber, he had the honour of refusing the laurel, which was 
then bestowed on Mr. Whitehead. 

His curiosity, not long after, drew him away from Cambridge 

to a lodging near the Museum, where he resided near three 

years, reading and transcribing ; and, so far as can be dis- 

j Ky covered, very little affected by two odes on Oblivion and 

I; .Obscurity, in which his Lyrick performances were ridiculed 

with much contempt and much ingenuity, 

When the Professor of Modern History a,t Cambridge died, 
he was, as he says, cockered and spirited up, till he asked it of 
Lord Bute, who sent him a civil refusal \ and the place was 
given to Mr. Brocket, the tutor of Sir James Lowther. 

His constitution was weak, and believing that his health was 
promoted by exercise and change of place, he undertook 
(1765) a journey into Scotland, of which his account, so far 
as it extends, is very curious and elegant ; for as his compre- 
hension was ample, his curiosity extended to all the works of 
art, all the appearances of nature, and all the monuments of 
past events. He naturally contracted a friendship with Dr. 
Beattie, whom he found a poet, a philosopher, and a good 
man. The Mareschal College at- Aberdeen offered him the 

1 771] GRAY. 459 

degree of Doctor of Laws, which, having omitted to take it 
at Cambridge, he thought it decent to refuse. 

What lie had formally solicited in vain was at last given 
him without solicitation. The Professorship of History became 
again vacant, and he received (1768) an offer of it from the 
Duke of Grafton. He accepted, and retained it to his death ; 
always designing lectures, but never reading them ; uneasy at 
his neglect of duty, and appeasing his uneasiness with designs 
of reformation, and with a resolution which he believed him- 
self to have made of resigning the office, if he found himself 
unable to discharge it. 

Ill health made another Journey necessary, and he visited 
(1769) Westmoreland and Cumberland. He that reads his 
epistolary narration wishes, that to travel, and to tell his 
travels, ha(i been more of his employment ; but it is by 
studying at home that we must obtain the ability of travelling 
with intelligence and improvement. 

His travels and his studies were now near their end. The 
gout, of which he had sustained many weal$; attacks, fell upon 
his stomach, and, yielding to no medicines, produced strong 
convulsions, which (July 30, 1771) terminated in death. 

His character I anj willing to adopt, as Mr. Mason has 
done, from a Letter written to my friend Mr. Boswell, by the 
Rev. Mr. Temple, rector of St. Gluvias in Cornwall ; and am 
as willing as his warmest well-wisher to believe it true. 

" Perhaps he was the most learned man in Europe. He 
was equally acquainted with the elegant and profound parts of 
science, and that not superficially but thoroughly. He knew 
every branch of history, both ng,tural and civil ; had read all 
th e original historia ns of England, France, and Italy ; and was 
a great antiquarian. Criticism, metaphysics, morals, politics, 
njade a principal part of his study ; voyages and travels of all 
sorts were his favourite amusements ; and he had a fine taste 
in painting, prints, architecture, and gardening. With such 

46o GRAY. [1716— 

a fund of knowledge, his conversation must have been equally 
instructing and entertaining ; but he was also a good man, a 
man of virtue and humanity. There is no character without 
some speck, some imperfection ; and I think the greatest defect 
in his was an affectation in delicacy, or rather effeminacy, and 
a visible fastidiousness, or contempt and disdain of his inferiors 
in science. He also had, in some degree, that weakness which 
disgusted Voltaire so much in Mr. Congreve : though he 
seemed to value others chiefly according to the progress they 
had made in knowledge, yet he could not bear to be considered 
himself merely as a man of letters ; and though without birth, 
or fortune, or station, his desire was to be looked upon as a 
private independent gentleman, who read for his amusement. 
Perhaps it may be said, What signifies so much knowledge, 
when it produced so little ? Is it worth taking so much pains 
to leave no memorial but a few poems ? But let it be con- 
sidered that Mr. Gray wasj to others, at^gasLJnnocently 
employed ; to himself, certainl^_beiieficially. His time passed 
agreeably; he was every daymaking some new acquisition in 
science ; his mind was enlarged, his heart softened, his virtue 
strengthened ; the world and mankind were shewn to him 
without a mask ; and he was taught to consider every thing as 
trifling and unworthy of the attention of a wise man, except 
the pursuit of knowledge and practice of virtue, in that state 
wherein God hath placed us." 

To this character Mr. Mason has added a more particular 
account of Gray's skill in zoology. He has remarked, that 
Gray's effeminacy was affected most before those whom he did 
not wish to please; and that he is unjustly charged with making 
knowledge his sole reason of preference, as he paid his esteem 
to none whom he did not likewise believe to be good. 

What has occurred to me, from the slight^inspection of his 
Letters in which my undertaking has engaged me, is that his 
mind had a large grasp ; that his curiosity was unlimited, and 
his judgement cultivated ; that he was a man likely to love 

I77I] GRAY. 461 

much where he loved at all, but that he was fastidious and ^ 
hard , to p lease. His contempt however is often employed, 
where I hope it will be approved, upon scepticism and infidelity. 
His short account of Shaftesbury I will insert. 

" You say you cannot conceive how Lord Shaftesbury came 
to be a philosopher in vogue ; I will tell you : first, he was a 
lord; secondly, he was as vain as any of his readers; thirdly, 
men are very prone to believe what they do not understand ; 
fourthly, they will beUeve any thing at all, provided they are 
under no obligation to believe it; fifthly, they love to take a 
new road, even when that road leads no where ; sixthly, he was 
reckoned a fine writer, and seems always to mean more than 
he said. Would you have any more reasons ? An interval 
of above forty years has pretty well destroyed the charm. 
A dead lord ranks with commoners ; vanity is no longer in- 
terested in the matter; for a new road is become an old one." 

Mr. Mason has added, from his own knowledge, that 
though Gray was poor, he was not eager of money ; and that, 
out of the little that he had, he was very willing to help the 

As a writer he had this peculiarity, that he did not write his "V 
pieces first rudely, and then correct them, but laboured every / 
line as it arose in the train of composition; and he had a ' 
notion not very peculiar, that he could not write but at certain > 
times, or at happy moments ; a fantastick foppery, to which my 
kindness for a man of learning and of virtue wishes him to 
have been superior. 

Gray's Poetry is now to be considered : and I hope not to be 
looked on as an enemy to his name, if I confess that I contem- 
plate it with less pleasure than his life. 

His Ode on Spring has something poetical, both . in the 
language and the thought ; but the language is too luxuriant, 
and the thoughts have nothing new. There has of late arisen 

462 GRAY. [1716— 

a practice_ofjiving t o adjec rives, derived from substantives, the 
termination_fiLpaxticiples ; sucTi as the cultured plain, the dasied 
bank ; but I was sorry to see, in the lines of a scholar like 
Gray, the honied Spring. The morality is natural, but too stale ; 
the conclusion is pretty. 

The poern on the Cat was doubtless by its author considered 
as a trifle, but it is not a happy trifle. In the first stanza, the 
azure flowers that blow, shew resolutely a rhyme is sometimes 
made when it cannot easily be found. Selima, the Cat, is 
called a nymph, with some violence both to language and 
sense ; but there is good use made of it when it is done ; for 
of the two lines, 

What female heart can gold despise ? 
What cat's averse to fish ? 

the first relates merely to the nymph and the second only to 
the cat. The sixth stanza contains a melancholy truth, that a 
favourite has no friend ; but the last ends in a pointed sentence 
of no relation to the purpose; if what glistered \aA been gold, 
the cat would not have gone into the water ; and, if she had, 
would not less have been drowned. 

The Prospect of Eton College suggests nothing to Gray 
which every beholder does not equally think and feel. His sup- 
plication to father Thames, to tell him who drives the hoop or 
tosses the ball, is useless and puerile. Father Thames has no 
better means of knowing than himself His epithet buxom 
health is not elegant ; he seems not to understand the word. 
Gray thought his language more poetical as it was more remote 
from common use : finding in Dryden ho7iey redolent of Spring, 
an expression that reaches the utmost limits of our language. 
Gray drove it a little more beyond common apprehension, by 
making gales, to be redolent of joy and youth. 

Of the Ode on Adversity, the hint was at first taken from 
O Diva, gratum quce regis Antium; but Gray has excelled his 
original by the variety of his sentiments, and by their moral 

I77I] GRAY. 463 

application. Of this piece, at once poetical and rational, I will 
not by slight objections violate the dignity. 

My process has now brought me to the wonderful Wonder of 
Wonders, the two Sister Odes ; by which, though either vulgar 
ignorance or common sense at first universally rejected them, 
many have been since persuaded to think themselves delighted. 
I am one of those that are willing to be pleased, and therefore 
would gladly find the meaning of the first stanza of the Pro- 
gress of Poetry. 

Gray seems in his rapture to confound the images of 
spreading sound and running water. A stream of musick may 
be allowed ; but where does Musick, however smooth and strong^ 
after having visited the verdant vales, rowl dozun the steef amain, 
so as that rocks and nodding groves rebellow to the roar 2 If this 
be said of Musick, it is nonsense ; if it be said of Water, it is 
nothing to the purpose. 

The second stanza, exhibiting Mar's car and Jove's eagle, is 
unworthy of further notice. Criticism disdains to -chase a school- 
boy to his common places. 

To the third it may likewise be objected, that it is drawn 
from Mythology, though such as may be more easily assimilated 
to real life. Idalia's velvet-green has something of cant. An 
epithet or metaphor drawn from Nature enobles Art ; an 
epithet or metaphor drawn from Art degrades Nature. Gray 
is too fond of words arbitrarily compounded. Many-twinkling 
was formerly censured as not analogical; we may say many- 
spotted, but scarcely many-spotthig. This stanza, however, has 
something pleasing. 

Of the second ternary of stanzas, the first endeavours to tell 
something, and would have told it, had it not been crossed by 
Hyperion : the second describes well enough the universal 
prevalence of Poetry ; but I am afraid that the conclusion will 
not rise from the premises. The caverns of the North and the 
plains of Chili are not the residences of Glory and generous 
Shame. But that Poetry and Virtue go always together is an 

464 GRAY. [1716- 

opinion so pleasing, that I can forgive him who resolves to think 
it true. 

The third stanza sounds big with Delphi, and Egean, and 
Ilissus, and Meander, and hallowed fountain and solemn sound ; 
but in all Gray's odes there is a kind of cumbrous splendor which 
we wish away. His position is at last false; in the time of Dante 
and Petrarch, from whom he derives our first school of Poetry, 
Italy was over-run by tyrant power and coward vice ; nor was our 
state much better when we first borrowed the Italian arts. 

Of the third ternary, the first gives a mythological birth of 
Shakspeare. What is said of that mighty genius is true ; but 
it is not said happily ; the real effects of this poetical power are 
put out of sight by the pomp of machinery. Where truth is 
sufficient to fill the mind, fiction is worse than useless ; the 
counterfeit debases the genuine. 

His account of Milton's blindness, if we suppose it caused 
by study in the formation of his poem, a supposition surely 
allowable, is poetically true, and happily imagined. But the 
car of Dryden, with his two coursers, has nothing in it peculiar ; 
it is a car in which any other rider may be placed. 

The Bard appears, at the first view, to be, as Algarotti and 
others have remarked, an imitation of the prophecy of Nereus. 
Algarotti thinks it superior to its original ; and, if preference 
depends only on the imagery and animation of the two poems, 
his judgement is right. There is in The Bard more force, 
more thought, and more variety. But to copy is less than to 
invent, and the copy has been unhappily produced at a wrong 
time. The fiction of Horace was to the Romans credible ; 
but its revival disgusts us with apparent and unconquerable 
falsehood. Incredulus odi. 

To select a singular event, and swell it to a giant's bulk by 
fabulous appendages of spectres and predictions, has Httle 
difficulty, for he that forsakes the probable may always find 
the marvellous. And it has little use ; we are affected only 
as we believe ; we are improved only as we find something 

I77I] GRAY. 465 

to be imitated or declined. I do not see that The Bard 
promotes any truth, moral or political. 

His stanzas are too long, especially his epodes ; the ode is 
finished before the ear has learned its measures, and con^ 
sequently before it can receive pleasure from their consonance 
and recurrence. 

Of the first stanza the abrupt beginning has been celebrated; 
but technical beauties can give praise only to the inventor. It 
is in the power of any man to rush abruptly upon his subject, 
that has read the ballad of Johnny Armstrong, 

/s there ever a man in all Scotland — 

The initial resemblances, or alliterations, ruin, ruthless, 
helm or hauberk, are below the grandeur of a poem that 
endeavours at sublimity. 

In the second stanza the Bard is well described ; but in the 
third we have the puerilities of obsolete mythology. When 
we are told that Cadwallo hush'd the stormy main, and that 
Modred made huge Plinlimmon bow his cloud-to f d head, atten- 
tion recoils from the repetition of a tale that, even when it was 
first heard, was heard with scorn. 

The weaving of the winding sheet \it borrowed, as he owns, 
from the northern Bards ; but their texture, however, was very 
properly the work of female powers, as the art of spinning 
the thread of life in another mythology. Theft is always 
dangerous ; Gray has made weavers of his slaughtered bards, N 
by a fiction outrageous and incongruous. They are then ' 
called upon to Weave the warp, and weave the woof, perhaps 
with no great propriety ; for it is by crossing the woof with 
the warp that men weave the web or piece ; and the first line , 
was dearly bought by the admission of its wretched correspon- I 
dent, Give ample room and verge enough. He has, however \ 
no other line as bad. y 

The third stanza of the second ternary is commended, I 
think, beyond its merit. The personification is indistinct. 

466 GRAY. [1716—17.71 

Thirst and Hunger are not alike ; and their features, to 
make the imagery perfect, should have been discriminated. 
We are told, in the same stanza, how towers are fed. But 
I will no longer look for particular faults ; yet let it be observed 
that the ode might have been concluded with an action of 
better example ; but suicide is always to be had, without 
expence of thought. 

These odes are marked by glittering accumulations of 
ungraceful ornaments ; they strike, rather than please ; the 
images are magnified by affectation ; the language is laboured 
into harshness. The mind of the writer seems to work with 
unnatural violence. Double, double, toil and trouble. He has 
a kind' of strutting dignity, and is tall by walking on tiptoe. 
His art and his struggle are too visible, and there is too little 
appearance of ease and nature. 

To say that he has no beauties, would be unjust : a man like 
him, of great learning, and great industry, could not but 
produce something valuable. When he pleases least, it can 
only be said that a good design was ill directed. 

His translations of Northern and Welsh Poetry deserve 
praise ; the imagery is preserved, perhaps often improved ; 
but the language is unlike the language of other poets. 

In the character of his Elegy I rejoice to concur with the 
common reader ; for by the common sense of readers un- 
corrupted with literary prejudices, after all the refinements 
of subtilty and the dogmatism of learning, must be finally 
decided all claim to poetical honours. The Churchyard 
abounds with images which find a mirrour in every mind, 
and with sentiments to which every bosom returns an echo. 
The four stanzas beginning Yet even these bones, are to me 
original; I have never seen the notions in any other place; 
yet he that reads them- here, persuades himself that he has 
always felt them. Had Gray written often thus, it had been 
vain to blame, and useless to praise him.